May 30, 2013
It’s of course heartbreaking to watch anyone battle prescription painkiller addiction, but the recent news about the growing number of babies born addicted to these narcotics weighs heavy on my heart. To give you some background on the issue, in the first-ever national study of its kind, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers looked at the number of newborns who suffered from withdrawal commonly observed in the babies of pregnant women who abused narcotic pain medications, like Vicodin and Oxycontin. The study reported that the number of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) tripled between 2000 and 2009, equating to roughly 13,539 drug-addicted newborns born each year, while the number of mothers using opiates at the time of delivery rose five-fold over that period
While both the issue and the number of victims are astounding, I think part of the issue is that many pregnant women may unfortunately not be aware that prescription painkillers can be harmful to their babies. Since the drugs are technically legal, many may assume that they are “safe.” In addition, since opiates are so highly addictive, if a mother is already taking the pills and becomes pregnant she simply may not be able to quit.
It’s absolutely heart wrenching to see that the rate of opiate addiction not only continues to rise in adolescent and adult populations, but that newborn babies are being affected as well. Rather than being given the chance to enter this world with a pure, clean slate these infants are born experiencing opiate withdrawal, which causes intense pain and suffering.
Based on what we now know to be a growing problem, it is crucial now more than ever that we as a nation and in our local communities provide increased public health measures to reduce prenatal exposure to opiates across the U.S. In the comments section below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on why the rate of babies being born addicted has tripled. Do you think providing more education to those who are pregnant and/or addicted will help alleviate this problem? Please share with me below.