Public Release: 

SFU author examines mothers and illicit drug use

Simon Fraser University

Susan Boyd, a criminology instructor at SFU and a long time counsellor of women who have used drugs in Vancouver's downtown eastside, says she is prepared for the scrutiny and criticism that could be ignited by the release of her first book, Mothers and Illicit Drugs: Transcending the Myths. Recently published by the University of Toronto Press, the book is Boyd's PhD thesis. In it she argues mothers who use illicit drugs are unfairly portrayed by the media and medical experts as unfit mothers who jeopardize their new born babies' lives.

"My research indicates a mother's use of illicit or licit drugs has nothing to do with her desire to be a good mother," comments Boyd, a mother of two children. "The view that there is a correlation is often based on morality. It also disregards the fact that neonatal syndrome (NAS) -- withdrawal symptoms ranging from flu-like symptoms and tremors to dehydration, and possibly, death -- is not a predictable outcome in babies born to drug addicted mothers."

Boyd points to European studies that show "drug addicted mothers are just as likely to have healthy babies as mothers who don't use drugs if they have access to good prenatal care, their socio-economic conditions are stablized and they aren't threatened with child apprehension or imprisonment".

The SFU PhD graduate makes extensive reference to three studies in defending her stance: her examination of the NAS program during a 10 year period at Sunny Hill Hospital for Children in Vancouver, a B.C. government evaluation of the program and her own first hand review of European programs for drug addicted mothers and their babies.

Boyd concludes that North American laws, medical practices, social services and media reports single out women of color and poor women for the harshest treatment.

Her analysis and conclusions are based on interviews with 28 mothers from B.C. Alberta and Saskatchewan. The SFU criminology graduate also interviewed at least 15 medical experts and drug and social service workers in Europe and B.C. University of Toronto Press will officially unveil Mother and Illicit Drugs: Transcending the Myths on April 13, 7 p.m. at Women in Print book store, 3566 West Fourth Avenue in Vancouver.


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