pregnant individual taking prescription opioid, increased overdose death risks in pregnant individuals from substance abuse

Overdose deaths in pregnant individuals have become prevalent due to the increase in substance abuse, mental health issues, social stigma, and limited access to treatment and care. The widespread use of prescription opioids has significantly heightened the risk of opioid misuse and opioid use disorders (OUDs), especially in pregnant women.

The Rising Crisis of Overdose Deaths During Pregnancy

The rising crisis of drug overdose deaths in pregnant women initially began in 2018 and continued throughout 2021 with the increased use of opioids. The opioid epidemic saw a significant rise in prescription opioids for pain management in the late 1990s, leading to drug addictions and overdoses. Opioid use in pregnant individuals is common, as many women use prescription opioids for pain relief during pregnancy. While the use of opioids during pregnancy for pain management may seem harmless, the dependency can potentially lead to misuse and addiction. The addictive properties of opioids, such as oxycodone, methadone, morphine, and hydrocodone, have led users to misuse and abuse opioids. Substance misuse, especially during pregnancy, can be life-threatening for both the mother and the baby, potentially leading to drug overdose.

Substance Abuse and Overdose Risk Among Pregnant Women

Opioid use among pregnant women is a complex issue influenced by various factors pertaining to chronic pain, mental health issues, and social stigma. Pregnant women who have chronic pain or pre-existing conditions may be taking prescription opioids for pain management. However, the continuation of opioid use for conditions like back pain, arthritis, or injuries can lead to dependence and misuse. Women who struggle with opioid misuse and abuse before becoming pregnant often have a difficult time quitting during pregnancy.

The challenges of managing an opioid use disorder (OUD) or addiction can be exacerbated due to the physical and emotional changes associated with pregnancy. Pregnant individuals may struggle with substance abuse involving substances other than opioids, including alcohol or other illicit drugs. Struggling with substance abuse and opioid use disorders (OUDs) during pregnancy can increase the risk of overdose and overdose deaths.

Co-Occurring Mental Health Issues During Pregnancy

Individuals with substance use disorders commonly struggle with mental health disorders like depression or anxiety, also known as co-occurring disorders. Mental health challenges are more prevalent during pregnancy and can contribute to increased substance use and the risk of overdose. Women with pre-existing mental health issues may experience exacerbated symptoms during pregnancy, leading to increased substance abuse and poorer mental health. The heightened stress during pregnancy, as well as the knowledge of potentially harming the fetus from substance use, can lead to extreme feelings of guilt.

Mental health issues, such as loneliness, depression, and stress, can cause individuals to use opioids or other substances as a coping mechanism. Using substances to cope with emotional stress or loneliness can intensify co-occurring disorders, potentially leading to suicidal ideation alongside drug overdose.

The Impact of Stigma and Social Judgments

The impact of social stigma and judgment plays a significant role in this crisis of substance abuse and addiction in pregnant individuals. Pregnant women dealing with opioid abuse often encounter societal judgment, which can discourage them from seeking help or treatment. This stigma and fear of repercussions can lead to isolation and a lack of support, exacerbating the use of drugs and overdose risks.

Socioeconomic factors, like lack of social support, poverty, and stressful life situations, can also heighten substance use and mental health issues among pregnant individuals. Social isolation when struggling with addiction can be challenging to overcome, especially for someone who is also pregnant.

The Crucial Role of Accessible Healthcare Services

Access to healthcare and support can significantly influence whether someone gets help for their drug addiction during pregnancy. Easy access to comprehensive healthcare services, such as prenatal care, addiction treatment, and mental health care, can help pregnant women receive treatment for their addiction and mental health. While not everyone has easy access to healthcare, some face barriers to accessing treatment for opioid use disorders (OUDs).

In addition to limited access, the stigma and concerns about legal repercussions can deter them from seeking the necessary treatment. The healthcare community, as well as pregnant individuals, may also be uninformed about the risks of opioid use during pregnancy. This lack of awareness can lead pregnant women to continue using opioids without a complete understanding of the potential harm to them and the fetus.

Treatment and Support for Pregnant Individuals Struggling with Substance Abuse

Inadequate screening for opioid use and insufficient education about the risks of substance use during pregnancy can lead to increased overdose risks. Treating opioid use among pregnant women requires a comprehensive approach, including prenatal care, drug rehabilitation treatment, as well as support for underlying issues such as mental health disorders. An integrated treatment program combining prenatal care with addiction treatment ensures that both the mother and fetus receive the necessary healthcare. Frequent monitoring of the pregnancy’s progress and the health of the fetus, such as ultrasounds and fetal heart rate monitoring, is crucial.

Addiction Treatment Programs: MAT and Dual Diagnosis

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), especially with drugs like methadone or buprenorphine, is often considered safe and effective for opioid use disorders (OUDs) during pregnancy. MAT for opioid use disorder (OUD) helps reduce withdrawal symptoms during detox and the risk of relapse. In addition to medical detox, counseling and behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help address the underlying issues of addiction. Dual diagnosis treatment in drug rehab is helpful for individuals struggling with substance abuse who also have co-occurring mental health disorders.

Addiction treatment programs will employ holistic practices such as stress-reduction techniques and coping strategies to help manage triggers for substance use. Services like group therapy and family therapy can help build a strong support system for pregnant individuals in addiction treatment during and after pregnancy. Treatment and support for pregnant women struggling with opioid abuse must be compassionate and holistic, including drug rehab, mental health, and social services. By providing comprehensive care and support, it’s possible to improve the outcome and health of both the mother and the child.


For drug rehab programs with dual diagnosis treatment in Stuart, FL, reach out to Coastal Detox today. Our comprehensive rehab programs take a holistic approach to addiction treatment, ensuring each patient is set up for success in long-term recovery.





  • National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2023. Overdose deaths increased in pregnant and postpartum women from early 2018 to late 2021.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022. About Opioid Use During Pregnancy.
  • National Insitute of Health, 2022. Maternal Mental Health During Pregnancy: A Critical Review.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022. Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder Before, During, and After Pregnancy.