Can You Test Newborns for Drugs in Texas?

In Texas, newborns cannot be tested for drugs. More on how laws can be used to bring drug use charges against mothers in TX here.

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ARTICLE OVERVIEW: Newborns are not systematically drug tested in Texas. However, consequences for substance abuse during pregnancy are described Texas Penal Code 22.041. More here on how you can lose parental rights for substance use in TX.


How Drugs Affect Newborns During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, consumption of certain prescription medications and illegal drugs are not safe for both the mother and unborn baby. So, if you are planning to get pregnant or already expecting, it’s important to check with your doctor regarding prescription drugs and put an end to recreational drug use.

It’s important to understand how drugs can impact the health of a newborn before starting or continuing the use of any potentially dangerous substance. There are many short and long term risks that come with any kind of drug use during pregnancy, including:

Marijuana: By smoking marijuana, the levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide are increased, which can reduce the oxygen supply to the baby. This can result in premature births, low birth weights, delays in development, and learning and behavioral problems.

Heroin: This highly addictive drug can not only severely harm the baby while in the womb but cause them to be dependent on the drug after it is born. A newborn can go into withdrawal after birth and experience symptoms such as irritability, convulsions, and sleep abnormalities.

Cocaine: After a fetus is exposed to cocaine, it can take much longer for the drug to be eliminated from their system than it would from an adult. Using cocaine during pregnancy can lead to premature labor, restricted growth, defects and learning difficulties.

Methamphetamine: Related to amphetamines, methamphetamine can raise the heart rate of both the mother and the baby. Newborns exposed to methamphetamine can suffer withdrawal symptoms, such as sleeplessness and muscle spasms.

PCP & LSD: As both of these drugs are hallucinogens, PCP & LSD can cause users to behave violently and self-harm, in addition to potential birth defects. PCP can lead to low birth weights, brain damage and poor muscle control, while frequent use of LSD can cause birth defects.

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

In 2014, an estimated 32,000 newborns were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, NAS, as a result of drug and opioid use during pregnancy. NAS causes a range of symptoms, including tremors and breathing problems, as the newborn withdraws from the substances they were exposed to while in the womb.

But how can a baby ingest drugs while in utero?

When a woman takes drugs during pregnancy, the chemicals are passed through the placenta and umbilical cord to the developing fetus. Chemical dependency then forms in the child if the mother takes a psychoactive substance over and over again during her pregnancy. And dependency ends after the baby goes through withdrawal…with associated risks and dangers.

With all of the risk that can come with drug use and pregnancy, monitoring the health of the mother and baby is a critical part of the pre and post-natal process. And part of monitoring can include drug testing.

Is it Mandatory to Drug Test Newborns In Texas?

No, Texas state law does not require drug testing in newborns. While there are no specific state laws to prosecute women who have used drugs during pregnancy, a prosecutor may be able to find ways to criminally charge the mother under other laws.

Currently, drug testing is not mandatory in every state for pregnant women and newborns. In other states, mandatory reporters must report suspected drug use in mothers, as it’s consider a form of child abuse. And in some other states, drug testing as a part of the process. For example, states such as North Dakota and Minnesota do require drug tests but only if there are drug-related complications at birth.

What Are the Laws for Prenatal Substance Abuse?

According to the Texas Penal Code 22.041:

“A person commits an offense if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engages in conduct that places a child younger than 15 years in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.”

Even though prenatal substance abuse is considered to be child abuse in 23 states, testing the mother and newborn is not a requirement in most states. There are many reasons testing would be provided, such as suspected prenatal drug exposure or evidence for child welfare proceedings.

Legal Consequences of Positive Drug Tests In Newborns

Drug use during pregnancy can cause many problems for the mother and child in addition to issues related to their health. Proven prenatal substance abuse and testing positive can lead to a range of legal issues as well. According to Houston drug crime lawyer, David Breston, the criminal penalties for a drug-related crime in Texas can range from a “a class “C” paraphernalia case to life in prison.

In other states, a positive drug test or if the newborn is exhibiting withdrawal symptoms can lead to revocation of custody rights. Loss of custody not only hurts the mother, but the child as well.
While infants and toddlers may be too young to process or remember the experience, it can have lasting and damaging effects, such as influencing their ability to love and trust others. The loss of custody is not only devastating but it can also take years to recover parental rights fully.

Newborn Drug Testing by State

In recent years, testing newborns for drugs has become a highly debated topic. But laws vary from state to state. Here’s a snapshot of the laws as they currently are in states throughout the U.S.

Require to test: Indiana

Required to test AND report for prenatal drug exposure: Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota and Rhode Island

Required to report prenatal drug exposure: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin.

Required for grounds to terminating parental rights: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

Your Questions

 Every day, the number of newborns born with NAS continues to increase. While it is not required to drug test a newborn in Texas, it’s important to know that it can still lead to severe consequences, including the loss of parental rights.
We understand that you probably have more questions about this topic. Please leave your questions in the comments section below. We do our best to respond to all real life questions personally.


About the author
Alana Redmond is a legal content writer who works with David Breston in Houston. Alana focuses her writing on drinking and driving laws, technology and consumer safety across Texas. She is a graduate from the University of California San Diego. You can learn more about Alana on her Linkedin or reach her by email at
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