Cocaine and cannabis use on the rise among older women in pregnancy


A new study found that 525 women at Dublin’s Combe Maternity Hospital had used drugs during pregnancy between 2010 and the end of 2019.

verall, the study found a “50% reduction in the number of women presenting with opiate use disorder or drug use during pregnancy.” However, a trend was observed in older patients with increased cocaine and cannabis use.

“One of the remarkable findings of this study is that cocaine is the new heroin,” said Coombe Master Professor Michael O’Connell.

“It is highly addictive and is associated with serious pregnancy complications, with a large increase in blood pressure followed by a sharp drop that can cause premature rupture, where the placenta separates from the uterus.

“There have been changes and changes in drug-use habits in society. The heroin problem we had in the 1980s evolved into cannabis and cocaine use.

“The number of women attending the clinic at Combe Hospital is declining, but they face a more complex and chaotic situation.”

Reported active heroin use during pregnancy varied from 23% of women with substance use in 2015 to 51% in 2017, with “no significant change over 10 years.”

Cocaine use during pregnancy jumped from 9% of drug-using women in 2012 to 35% in 2019. Cannabis use spiked further from 9% to 51%.

The proportion of women prescribed methadone during pregnancy decreased significantly from 97% of women using the substance in 2012 to 64% in 2019.

Research published in European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biologyit was observed that the mean age at childbirth in women increased from 30.7 to 32 years.

During this period, 504 babies were born to mothers with drug problems in Combe, but there were eight miscarriages. Two of her three of the women had a history of psychiatric disorders, primarily depression, and 10% reported having previously attempted suicide. Just over 1 in 10 were homeless and 92% were single. One in five she worked full-time, and she smoked more than 90% of the time during her pregnancy.

“Homelessness and mental illness are common factors in this group, who are more prone to anxiety and depression,” said Professor O’Connell.

“This is reflected in the multidisciplinary team that provides care for these vulnerable women and their babies.

“This team will provide access to addiction and infectious disease midwives, social workers, addiction services, quandara, guiding teams, St. Offers.

“We provide an open, non-judgmental environment, a continuity of care that incorporates expert opinion, a place where women feel supported in disclosing their drug use, and an emphasis on drug stabilization during pregnancy. We aim to make sure that people are able to place themselves and receive the care they deserve.”

He added that although maternal deaths are rare in Ireland, two deaths in this group of women were reported during the study period, both drug-related.

“Half of the newborns in this clinic are admitted to the neonatal ward with withdrawal symptoms, which is about five times the admission rate compared to the non-addiction group,” he said. ”

The study also found that prescription antidepressants and benzodiazepines were among the substances women ingested.

Professor O’Connell said he would like to see more clinics for women who use substances during pregnancy, like the clinic in Combe.

“Drug use is pervasive throughout society and no part of Ireland is untouched, so we need this kind of care across the country.”



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