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Babies Born With Prescription Drug Addiction

Posted on May 9, 2012 in Research & News

Thirty years ago, the nation was witnessing a generation of babies who were being born addicted to crack cocaine. Mothers who had been hooked on cocaine during their pregnancy were passing it on to their unborn children. Today, babies are being subjected to drugs at an even higher rate, but by different drugs. A new study shows that prescription painkillers, known to be highly addictive in adults, are now causing addiction in unborn babies.

A recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that one baby every hour is born with an addiction to painkillers. Sadly, many mothers don’t even realize they are harming their children. They believe that if a doctor prescribed their medicine then it must be safe.

A Different Kind of Drug Addiction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that more people each year die from a drug overdose of prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined. The drugs that were once thought of as safe are only safe if used properly.

Lead author of the study, Stephen Patrick, a fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the University of Michigan, found that 13,539 infants a year were born addicted to the drugs found in prescription painkillers. Records from 2009 reveal that 3.4 of every 1,000 babies were born with the same withdrawal symptoms as adults who used narcotic painkillers.

Vicodin and OxyContin were the most common drugs found to ignite the addictions. Expectant mothers were often taking these drugs to manage pain that had been caused by an injury or an illness.

Patrick emphasizes that the prescription drug epidemic is now reaching beyond senior citizens, adults, and children, all the way into the womb of America. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is attacking children who have not even developed a voice to say no to drugs.

Born Crying

Doctors and nurses have claimed that they can tell a child who has been born with NAS just by hearing their cries. Their cries are different than a healthy baby’s. Their cries are of pain, respiratory distress, and irritability, and often their cries are constant and inconsolable.

Most of these babies are born underweight and have feeding problems. In addition to the problems mentioned above, common withdrawal symptoms seen in these babies are the following:

  • Seizures
  • Tense muscles
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Treating an Infant Addicted to Drugs

Doctors are still searching for the best ways to treat an infant who, upon birth, is immediately plunged into withdrawal. Being taken from the womb of a mother who is addicted to pain medication is the same as an adult quitting narcotics "cold turkey." To ease the baby out of withdrawal, some babies are given smaller and smaller amounts of methadone or morphine, over time.

Other babies are slightly calmed by being swaddled tightly or by being fed. But Patrick says that most babies are inconsolable.

To be born into the world in such a way is unfair. Patrick stresses that although there are some methods to help comfort the children and ease them out of their distress, there needs to be much more research.

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