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Riley Hospital doctor helping dozens of pregnant women addicted to drugs

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Some doctors are hesitant to take in patients with substance use disorders but one at Riley Hospital feels it is necessary. Dr. Tara Benjamin is treating mothers for opioid use disorders during pregnancy and her office has been overwhelmed by the number of patients.

She was noticing an unsettling trend as she began seeing patients for Indiana University Health in 2015. Dr. Benjamin said there were many pregnant women with a substance use disorder coming in and she realized there were few places for them to receive help.

"There are a few doctors that are comfortable with substance use disorder treatment in general. There are very few doctors that are trained specifically in this area," she said.

Dr. Benjamin felt she needed to be trained to help a population she said were being dropped at their most vulnerable time. Overtime she developed an expertise in caring for these mothers. Since 2015, she believes her team has seen nearly 400 patients. She said most of them were addicted to prescription drugs. Treatment at their clinic includes addiction counseling, group prenatal care and social work.

"Pregnancy can be a deterrent for many physicians because you are treating two patients and that can be a bit intimidating or scary for some doctors," said Dr. Benjamin.

She is also able to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. Dr. Benjamin carries 60 to 70 addicted mothers at a time. Not long ago, she said she was the only doctor in Indiana with approval to treat 100 patients at a time. She never wanted to turn a patient away.

"It’s actually become more difficult for me as of recent because a few days ago, I had my first patient die of an overdose," said Dr. Benjamin.

She strongly believes Indiana could gain some headway on this deadly epidemic if it prioritizes the treatment of pregnant women. She said her team probably sees these patients more frequently than they see other patients because it takes a lot to take care of them.

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