Prescription Med Babies Are The New Crack Babies

prescription medication“Crack baby” stories in the 90s may have gained lots of eyeballs with exclusive media reports and TV segments, but the post-millennium equivalent seems to have already arrived. Only instead of cocaine being what the press is leaning in to gawk about, now we have an uptick in babies being born to prescription medication addicts. Perhaps we should be holding out on that kiddie OxyContin for just a bit then.

Msnbc reports that the number of babies born addicted to substances like OxyContin and other painkillers “has increased dramatically over the past five years.” Dr. Mary Newport, the director of the neonatal unit at the Spring Hill Regional Hospital north of Tampa, Fla. says that she expects to treat 20 times the babies born on prescription drugs than she did in 2007, describing the maternity ward as “a neonatal drug rehabilitation unit.” Yet, options for mothers who are addicts are pretty slim:

Even if they want to get off the drugs quickly, doctors advise them not to.  Going cold turkey could cause them to miscarry. Instead, the women are switched from the painkillers they are on to methadone or buprenorphine, drugs that keep them stable and help curb their cravings. Unfortunately, these drugs can also cause severe withdrawal symptoms in newborns.

But just as mothers of the whole “crack baby” epidemic were vilified in the media for their addiction, it appears like this new generation of addicts can expect the same treatment. Msnbc reports that these poor babies can expect to stay in the hospital for months at a time, costing $50,000 per kid, and therefore putting a “strain” on resources and space. One hospital in West Virginia, a state where 10% of all babies are born experiencing withdrawal symptoms, says that they sometimes have to turn away preterm babies to care for the addicted ones.

Fair for this community, which clearly doesn’t have enough staff or materials to accommodate the needs of all families. But these mommies need help for their substance abuse, not pitchforks.

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(photo: Martin Valigursky/ Shutterstock)

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