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Voices In Prevention

Voices in Prevention spotlights people on Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i who are working in drug use prevention, treatment and recovery, or are affected by substance use. This week we spoke with Laurie Tanner, a Maui-based author, teacher and perinatal addiction specialist.

Perinatal addiction specialists usually work with mothers, and are experienced in dealing with the way addiction affects moms, babies, children and families. After decades of working with children and parents affected by drugs and alcohol, Tanner believes that preventing substance use and addiction is a critical need, especially in light of current trends such as the opioid crisis. Opioid-positive births in labor and delivery quadrupled from 1999-2014, according to a 2018 study reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Tanner shared an excerpt from her book: “All About Alcohol, Drugs & Babies: The Mother’s Survival Guide to Recovery.”

“Both addicted and non-addicted parents feel that new life, in the birth of a baby, can make wonderful changes for them. However, serious problems emerge when the dark forces of alcohol and drug addiction are present inside a family with growing children, full of light, love and demands.

“Addicted women and men discover they cannot make the positive life changes they want. The twists, turns and crashes in their lives are controlled by their alcohol and drug use, rather than deliberate decision-making and family planning. As time goes on, abusing chemicals becomes the direction and the purpose of a drinker’s and a user’s life. It has become an addiction, a chemical upon which survival depends — a chemical dependency.

“Men can become willing to enter treatment for chemical dependency when they see they’ll lose their job, or already have. The wake-up call for women to deal with their substance abuse often occurs during pregnancy or the loss of their children. Professionals in perinatal addiction call this ‘a window of opportunity’ because chemical dependency counseling can be most successful at this time in a woman’s life.

“Chemically dependent people want to protect their using and drinking because it is a solution, a way to cope with their inner life and outer circumstances. Now the solution (drugs and alcohol) has become a big problem, and denial keeps substance abusers from seeing addiction as the murderer it is. It kills the life force in women, men and children. But somewhere, inside of every alcoholic and drug addict, is a little voice that says “I shouldn’t be living this way.” If you are pregnant or a mother already, this little voice is turning into a scream.

“No woman ever intentionally wants to hurt her baby. Intuitively, women know that alcohol and drugs are harmful to developing babies and children. For substance-abusing pregnant and parenting women, these two facts create feelings of hopelessness and helplessness — an enormous emotional and psychic crisis.

“To recover from this crisis, women need appropriate support and effective treatment to become alcohol-free, drug-free, and the kind of mother they want to be. Almost four million women are pregnant each year. This book can comfort, educate and motivate the estimated twenty percent of pregnant women who abuse substances in the United States. In 1992, one in nine women in California tested positive for drugs, including alcohol, at the time their babies were born. Therefore, more than 69,000 newborns in California, and up to 740,000 infants nationwide, had been exposed to harmful substances during perinatal development that year. These children will need helpful intervention, and clean and sober mothers, to grow into healthy, loving, emotionally secure women and men. Keep reading, and be one of them! For a free copy of this book, as supplies last, write to adicma.llt@gmail.com.

* For more information about how to become involved with substance abuse prevention efforts in Maui County, visit the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth website at mcdfy.org.

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