13,000 American Infants Born Addicted To Prescription Painkillers, Tripling In The Past Decade, According To A National Study Released By The Journal of the American Medical Association
Imagine entering the world addicted to prescription painkillers. Now accept the reality that 3.4 of every 1,000 infants born in American hospitals in 2009 suffered from prescription painkiller withdrawal. Although the results of this study by the Journal of the American Medical Association is terrifying, it is sadly not surprising to the clinical staff of ONE80CENTER. The national epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse is only getting worse and this is the worst of the red flags are being waved.
The Red Flag of Infants Born Addicted To Prescription Painkillers
When will we say enough is enough – no babies should ever be born addicted to prescription painkillers. Is it any surprise that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has flagged prescription painkiller abuse as a major health threat in America? Given the recent history of prescription drugs across the board and opiate painkillers in specific, is this surprising?
Nearly tripling in the past decade, according to the first national study of its kind, so many infants being born addicted to prescription painkillers is downright shocking. Why are so many pregnant women abusing narcotic pain medications? How can this national epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse be stopped?
Imagine the numbers alone… about 13,539 infants a year, or one born every hour, says the study’s lead author, Stephen Patrick, a fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the University of Michigan. The treatment of these newborns is a given necessity. The vast majority of them naturally have to be covered by the publicly financed Medicaid program. This coverage alone cost $720 million in 2009.
There is no question that we have an obligation as a country to help these babies. They did not choose to ingest the deadly drugs. They did not choose to be born addicted to prescription painkillers. There is no questioning whether or not they are innocent victims.
Unlike in the 1980s and 1990s, when hospitals saw a frightening surge in babies born addicted to crack cocaine, many newborns today arrive addicted to prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin. Although neonatal abstinence syndrome produces different symptoms from cocaine withdrawal, the damage is hardcore and there is no easy answer to the long-term negative effects on development. At a much higher risk for death from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and other complications, babies born in withdrawal are often born small. Doctors treat them with methadone, a narcotic used to treat heroin addicts. The dose is cut slowly to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Infant Withdrawal Born Addicted ToPrescription Painkillers
It is understandable that Doctors and nurses often can tell without testing which babies are going through withdrawal simply from their cries. They are irritable, hard to console, and suffer from stiff, rigid muscles. The very image brought to mind brings tears to my eyes. These little babies have tremors, seizures and breathing problems. Furthermore, the infants have trouble feeding, often rejecting nourishment. They throw up frequently, tremble in their cribs and produce watery diarrhea. Luckily, with no time to spare, the American Medical Association and the CDC have raised the red flag.
Mark Hudak, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, explained that many mothers tell doctors they failed to realize prescription painkillers could harm their babies. Although hard to buy into such rationalizations, this is far from the whole story. Many of the abusing mothers-to-be are addicted when they get pregnant and find themselves unable or unwilling to quit.
ONE80CENTER believes that no additional red flags need to be raised in order for action to be taken. Major campaigns of education and awareness raising, prevention and free treatment for pregnant women need to be started in order to stem this vicious tide of babies being born addicted to prescription painkillers. What other choice do we honestly have when facing such avoidable trauma? Above all others, infants have the undeniable right to begin their lives free from the chains of addiction.