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Ethn Dis. 1996 Winter-Spring;6(1-2):47-55.

Racism and perinatal addiction.

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Department of Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York, USA.


Recent publicity and policy have targeted drug use by non-white women, particularly during pregnancy and parenthood. This emphasis on women of color is discordant with the population demographics of substance use and addiction, although morbidity and mortality related to drugs is often greater among nonwhites. Women with addictive disorders that are exacerbated by their social environments are blamed for their behavior. Meanwhile, drug treatment and primary health care services for these women are woefully inadequate. Among newborns testing positive for cocaine, those with black mothers are more likely to be discharged to non-maternal care, which may perpetuate family disruption. There are multiple reasons for true and perceived ethnic differences in substance use, addiction, and related social and medical harm. Such harm may be worsened by the racism inherent in U.S. drug policy. The scapegoating of non-white drug-using women and the paucity of treatment for them may be related to political and economic imperatives of society in maintaining and pacifying exploited groups.

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