(N.Morgan) Due to the uptick in opioid addiction in this country and the laws making it harder to obtain them without a prescription, heroin is now becoming the drug of choice. With this trend also comes the casualties of addiction, our most innocent and precious souls, newborn babies. They enter this world addicted to heroin and paying the ultimate price of addiction.
The number of drug-dependent newborns rose 500% between 2003 and 2013, according to Reuters reports. In Maine, which is at the center of the heroin epidemic – nearly 1,000 infants have been born with a drug dependency in 2015.
“It is a crisis. It is an epidemic,” Dr. Lauren Jansson of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine told Reuters. “The opioid crisis in this country is continuing to expand exponentially, and we’re seeing more and more of these infants.”
Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a cluster of medical problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive opiate drugs while still in the mother’s womb. NAS presents itself because a pregnant woman ingests opiate or narcotic drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin) methadone or buprenorphine. These and other substances pass through the placenta that connects the baby to its mother in the womb. The baby becomes addicted along with the mother.
When the baby is born, it is still dependent on the drug. Because the baby is no longer getting the drug after birth, symptoms of withdrawal may arise. Symptoms often begin within 1-3 days after birth, but may take up to a week to appear. Symptoms include: diarrhea, fever, irritability, seizures, slow weight gain, vomiting and sleep problems are just a few possible symptoms of (NAS). A newborn in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Tufts Medical Center in Boston was given morphine to ease his withdrawals. The baby was in the hospital for three weeks. The jerking movements this baby boy had were painful symptoms of opiate addiction.
The child’s 32-year-old mother requested not to be identified. “I felt guilty, and I felt bad, because I felt like, that it was my fault,” she told CBS News. “Because of my drug use.”
“When you look at these babies it can break your heart, because they are very, very irritable, inconsolable, they are crying, they have tremors,” said Chief of Newborn Medicine at Tufts, Dr. Jonathan Davis. Davis said this problem is growing incredibly fast. “The average cost of a baby who goes through withdrawal is approximately $53,000 in the United States compared to only a thousand or two with a normal newborn,” he said.
Though it is still unknown what the consequences of this addiction will hold for newborns, since the doctors are just beginning to research the possible long term affects of addiction in babies, we do know the statistics which are for every 25 minutes, one baby is born suffering from heroin withdrawal.
The epidemic in heroin abuse has also reached New Hampshire, where the easy availability of cheap heroin and other opiates has exploded.
New Hampshire has seen over 300 drug overdose related deaths in 2015.
This increasing crisis has motivated state leaders to offer plans on how to improve addiction services, while presidential candidates, campaigning to win the first-in-the-nation primary, have also weighed in. Judy Woodruff reports.