Increasing Number of Babies Born Addicted to Drugs

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The opioid epidemic is affecting even the most innocent lives as more and more babies are born with addictions to painkillers and heroin, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.

Hospitals in Maryland have noticed an alarming rise in the number of babies born exposed to drugs, causing newborns to suffer the symptoms of drug withdrawal, including tremors and trouble feeding. Known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, this problem is being seen across the country.

Dr. Howard J. Birenbaum, director of the division of neonatology at Greater Baltimore Medical Center told the Sun that the problem has gotten much worse over the past decade. “We certainly have babies born here that end up in neonatal intensive care unit requiring treatment we didn’t see 10 years ago. We all seem to have babies in the NICU who are suffering from withdrawal,” he said.

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In Maryland, hospitals are instituting new ways of caring for the babies, including “cuddle” programs, as well as working with doctors to identify drug-addicted mothers while they are pregnant.

The number of babies born in Maryland with opiates, alcohol, narcotics or other drugs in their systems has increased 56.6 percent in the last nine years to 1,419 cases in 2015, the latest numbers available.

In an effort to create standardized care for babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, the Maryland Patient Safety Care Center is working with birthing centers around the state, hoping to reduce times spent in the hospital. They also want to help expectant mothers as early in their pregnancies as possible.

However, identification of addicted mothers is difficult, and the babies often have such severe withdrawal symptoms that they need drug treatment. “Most of these babies are given morphine or methadone, mostly to help relieve seizures, weight loss and other symptoms as they detox,” according to the report, which notes that such drugs can cause other health problems and more time in the hospital for the baby.

Babies who survive the withdrawal will likely suffer from residual symptoms during their first year of life.

H/T: The Baltimore Sun

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