Too Many Pregnant Teens Using

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Pregnant teens in substance abuse treatment may need extra support to stay clean

May 15, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Substance abuse is a serious issue for any teen girl, but if that girl is pregnant, the problem is exponentially greater. Extra support might be necessary to help pregnant teens get sober.

A recent report released information on all of the teenage girls that went into substance abuse treatment from 2007 to 2010 in the US.

The results showed that pregnant girls had less education, were twice as likely to use methamphetamines and were more likely to be in trouble with the law.

"Seek treatment for help with substance abuse."

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services, released a report on pregnant teenage girls in substance abuse treatment programs across the US. 

“Compared with pregnant adults, pregnant teens are at increased risk for having pregnancy-related complications, premature delivery, and delivering babies with developmental problems,” said the study authors.

For this study, the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) provided the authors with data on all pregnant girls between the ages of 12 and 19 that were admitted to a substance abuse treatment facility in the US from 2007 to 2010.

For a comparison group, data on girls of the same age who were not pregnant was also collected.

Between 2007 and 2010, roughly 57,000 teenage girls were admitted into substance abuse treatment facilities across the US. Of those admissions, approximately 4 percent were pregnant.

The researchers found that the pregnant girls tended to be slightly older than their non-pregnant counterparts, as 62 percent of all pregnant admissions were 18 or 19 years of age.

The majority (52 percent) of non-pregnant admissions were 15 to 17 years of age. Very few (3 percent) of 12 to 14 year old girls were pregnant.

More pregnant teens had less than a high school education, at 65 percent, compared to non-pregnant girls, at 49 percent.

As for drug use, 73 percent of pregnant girls and 70 percent of non-pregnant girls reported marijuana use.

Non-pregnant girls reported that they were slightly more likely to drink alcohol with 50 percent reporting consumption compared to 46 percent of pregnant girls.

A total of 17 percent of pregnant girls reported use of methamphetamines/amphetamines, compared to 8 percent of non-pregnant girls.

Cocaine use was also higher in pregnant girls, with 13 percent reporting use, compared to 11 percent of non-pregnant girls.

Heroin and opiate use was 1 percent higher in non-pregnant girls compared to pregnant girls.

Only 19 percent of pregnant girls said they had been using substances on a daily basis before entering treatment, while 49 percent said they had not used any substance in the past month. One-fourth of all non-pregnant girls reported using substances daily prior to entering treatment. In comparison, 29 percent that said they had not used any substances in the past month.

Slightly more pregnant girls were referred to treatment by the criminal justice system than non-pregnant girls, at 41 percent versus 37 percent, respectively.

Having been detained in a county jail or juvenile detention facility was a possible explanation as to why many girls had not used drugs or alcohol in the past month.

“It is critical that pregnant women of all ages have access to prevention, support, and recovery services that meet their specialized needs,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a press release.

“These specialized needs are even more acute for our pregnant teens. Community programs that can address the needs of pregnant teens by providing them both access to substance abuse support services and specialized pregnant and postpartum services can help ensure that these future mothers and their children live healthier, happier and more productive lives," said Hyde.

The report suggests that pregnant girls in treatment programs may need additional relapse prevention help, especially as they reach the end of treatment or get closer to their due dates.

This report was published in May on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 14, 2013
Last Updated:
September 18, 2013