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Addicted To Their Mother’s Drugs September 10, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
NAS, drug addicted mothers, prenatal care, addicted babies, drug overdose, prescription drug use pregnancy

Drug dependent newborns are the newest US epidemic

In Tennessee the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) cases doubled from 2010 to 2011. Kentucky has seen a three-fold increase. Twelve thousand NAS babies are born every year in Washington. Maine’s opiate use is 8.6 times higher than the national average.

At least two Florida counties have lax regulations regarding ease of obtaining and filling prescriptions. Rates in Broward County have quadrupled, and Lee County has seen a 657% increase since 2005. These counties draw out-of-towners and have become the base for the 1,000 mile “Pill-Pipeline” running from Florida to Kentucky along Interstate-75, spiking rates of NAS along that route.

No neighborhood is immune, it seems, to the ever-growing demand and physician compliance for chronic pain medications. The resulting NAS epidemic devours states’ Medicaid funds and places a heavy burden on social services. This epidemic is 100% preventable by mothers choosing to abstain either from drugs or from unprotected sex while addicted.

A mother’s 20-minute high creates the same prolonged response in the baby over a two-week period. Stopping drug use during pregnancy is not recommended, as the babies may experience fatal seizures in utero. Babies suffer withdrawal because they have been continually exposed to drugs before birth and no longer receive them after birth. Within hours to days they exhibit withdrawal symptoms seen in high-pitched constant shrieking, tremors and inability to feed. The average age of addicted mothers is 17-25.

This week we welcome an interview with a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) who is employed by Pediatric Interim Care Center. This unique non-profit organization is a 24-hour care facility created with the intent to assist medically fragile newborns suffering from NAS. Due to the sensitive nature of her work, I am withholding her name from this publication.

Q: Do you find that the majority of your infants are suffering from prescription drug dependence?

A: Toxicology reports are only 60% accurate so we can’t identify all the drugs. Depending on the drugs and the mixture of drugs, some can be identified. Some examples are the tremors of meth and heroine-dependent babies. Because more meth makers no longer use a purification process, when the baby stools, the chemicals excreted burn the babies’ bottoms. Cocaine-dependent babies tend to be much calmer than babies with no drug dependency, but they never feel hungry so we have to train/teach them to eat. It’s extremely important to keep them on a feeding schedule so they learn to be hungry. The most that I have seen in one baby are 10-15 different drugs, but this is according to the mother’s reported use.

Q: How long does an infant’s withdrawal treatment usually last?

A: Withdrawal depends on length of use during pregnancy and on the mixture of drugs. Some withdrawals are not apparent until baby is a couple weeks old. The treatment could be three weeks or three months.

Q: Are there other organizations like PICC? Is PICC used when NICU/hospital benefits run out?

A: PICC is the only center of its kind. Many states have contacted [us for] help because hospital staff aren’t trained and become overwhelmed. Here in Washington, it is cheaper to send babies to PICC versus staying in a hospital. State funded medical assistance will pay for a mother’s recovery but not a baby’s.

Q: How do you calm and treat the babies?

A: The babies are in pain, like any user who is trying to recover from addiction. We treat the harsh cases with morphine to help with the withdrawal, we hold them, keep them swaddled, and love them.

Thank you for your candid look into caring for NAS babies.

Every day, 2,200 youth ages 12-17 use a pain reliever for the first time. More teens abuse illicit drugs than any other drug except for marijuana. Seventy percent of the prescription drugs come from a friend or relative with 56% of those being given for free. Only 4% are purchased from a drug dealer.

The amount of prescribed medication from physicians for chronic pain is at an all-time high. Some of these are highly addictive, and frequently adults carelessly leave them in cabinets after they no longer need them. Among 12 and 13 year-olds, prescriptions drugs are the drug of choice because of their availability.

This begins the downward spiral resulting in neonatal abstinence syndrome, with 75% of addicted mothers not receiving prenatal care, and a resulting 50% increase in children requiring foster care. Furthermore, current policies allow funding for maternal treatment of addiction, but not for their babies. Developmental delays and behavioral issues are common but not a guarantee.

This epidemic is too new to have any long-term study results, but PICC has seen several of their babies continue on to graduate high school, ever-grateful for the help they received as infants.


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