Ann Arbor, MI: Black newborns are more likely to undergo drug testing than are other babies, according to data published in the journal JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network Open.
Researchers affiliated with the University of Michigan assessed rates of infant drug testing in a cohort of over 26,000 newborn children. They reported that clinicians ordered drug tests to be performed on Black newborns at nearly four times the rate of other children.
“This study [finds] racial disparities in newborn drug testing unrelated to obstetrical risk,” authors determined. “Our findings strongly suggest that changes in policies regarding drug testing and reporting at the hospital and state level and improvement measures focused on the health, well-being, and dignity of Black birthing people are needed to reduce health inequity for Black parents and their newborns.”
The findings are consistent with those of prior studies reporting that Black patients and their newborns are more likely to be drug tested for cannabis and other substances than those of other ethnicities.
For example, a study published earlier this month in the journal Hospital Pediatrics reported that patients selected to undergo marijuana-specific drug screening during the labor and delivery process are disproportionately Hispanic or African American.
Data assessing the relationship between in utero cannabis exposure and various neonatal outcomes, such as birth weight, is inconsistent. However, longitudinal data indicates that cannabis exposure is rarely independently linked with adverse neurodevelopmental consequences, finding, “Although there is a theoretical potential for cannabis to interfere with neurodevelopment, human data drawn from four prospective cohorts have not identified any long-term or long lasting meaningful differences between children exposed in utero to cannabis and those not.”
Nonetheless, in some states, such as in Oklahoma and Alabama, mothers have been arrested and criminally prosecuted for the use of cannabis during their pregnancy. In total, 24 states and the District of Columbia consider substance use during pregnancy to be child abuse under civil child-welfare statutes and three consider it grounds for civil commitment, according to data provided by The Guttmacher Policy Institute.
Full text of the study, “Incidences of newborn drug testing and variations by birthing parent race and ethnicity before and after recreational cannabis legalization,” appears in JAMA Network Open.