Addiction in the womb: More newborns hooked on painkillers
It goes without saying that the outcomes for pregnant addicts can be devastating.
In the 1980s and 90s, "crack" babies were a serious problem--children born to addicted mothers who came into the world with an inherent drug addiction.
Now, however, the rise of newborns with opioid painkiller addictions is worrisome. In the span of about 10 years--2000 to 2009--the country has seen the problem triple: As of 2009, about 13,000 babies were born with painkiller withdrawal symptoms.
The condition, known as "neonatal abstinence syndrome" is disturbing. Babies are reported to vomit, cry uncontrollably, have jerky limb movements and suffer from diarrhea or sleep disturbances. Treatment usually consists of a combination of anti-seizure medications, but outcomes can vary.
"It's heartbreaking," Erin Weatherwax, a neonatal nurse at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida, reported to the Wall Street Journal.
Even worse, medical experts say the problem arrived rather suddenly, leaving caretakers caught off guard and unprepared to deal with these types of infants.
Risk for addiction?
It's not entirely known how predisposed an addicted newborn is to drug use later in life, but some studies suggest that these babies are at a higher risk for conditions like ADHD or mental health problems.
And while helping pregnant mothers get the treatment they need if they're battling an addiction is one thing, experts recommend starting with the kids. Reducing the amount of painkiller prescriptions for teens and children might help prevent future addiction, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Source: Live Science