Volume 30

Abolish and Reimagine: The Pseudoscience and Mythology of Substance Use in the Family Regulation System

by Marc Canellas

Substance use is one of the favorite justifications for the family regulation system to remove children and prevent reunification with their parents, especially if those parents are women, people in poverty, or people of color. This Article reviews decades of scientific research, hundreds of scientific articles, revealing that almost all the assumptions justifying removal and prevention of reunification for alleged substance use are pseudoscientific mythsrevealing a system dedicated not to family preservation, but to family punishment.

The family regulation system disproportionately targets women, people of color, and people in poverty. In many instances, a single drug test with no corroborating medical opinion or scientific analysis is sufficient to affix the label “substance use disorder.” Children are removed for alleged maltreatment on the unfounded assumption any substance use automatically causes maltreatment. Children are returned conditioned upon the completion of general services and treatment which are known to not address the true material financial needs of families or substance users. Abstinence is the rule. Relapse, the normal process of recovery, will be punished. Pregnant people and infants face legal punishment and compelled services opposed by almost every major medical association because they do not contribute to proper care or improved outcomes for the parent or the child.

Because the expanding family regulation system inappropriately relies upon pseudoscientific myths to oppress Black, indigenous, immigrant, poor, and other marginalized communities, we must reject these myths, abolish the family regulation system, and embrace the science and reality of substance use and family welfare. To build a more humane and democratic society, nothing short of abolishing and reimagining a new family welfare system that embraces science and reason, and no longer relies upon draconian practices that remove children from homes and target society’s most vulnerable people, will do.

Read the full article here