The very idea of babies being born addicted to opiates and heroin is heartbreaking enough, but it is their screams that are perhaps the hardest thing for those in healthcare to handle. Dr. Sean Loudin, the medical director of Cabell Huntington Hospital in West Virginia told CNN that they regularly deal with babies who are going through withdrawals. While the babies may shake, vomit, and have diarrhea, they also scream for more of the drug that they are no longer being exposed to.
And with the current epidemic of opiate and heroin addiction in this country, the number of babies being born to these substances is on the rise as well. It is a hard concept to swallow, but if more mothers were made aware of just how heartbreaking babies being born addicted to opiates can be, perhaps they would think twice before continuing to abuse drugs while pregnant and would seek the help they need in order to get off of drugs before the baby is ultimately born.
The number of new cases of babies born addicted to drugs and suffering withdrawals (also known as "neonatal abstinence syndrome") has soared to five times their previous number over the course of the last decade. Rural counties in particular have, surprisingly, been hit the hardest, with rates of NAS increasing from about 13 percent to almost 22 percent from 2004 to 2013.
Babies aren't the only ones suffering in these situations. The rate of hospital deliveries that have been complicated by the use of opioids has increased as well, from 1.3 to 8.1 in every 1,000 rural hospital deliveries, and from 1.6 to 4.8 in every 1,000 urban deliveries, according to new research that was released today by The Jama Network.
According to Dr. Nicole Villapiano, the lead researcher on this study and a pediatrician at the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, babies who suffer from withdrawal have difficulty sleeping and are typically irritable and uncomfortable. On the more serious side, they can suffer seizures and even growth delays as a result.
Rural hospitals already experience difficulties as it is with their resources being tight, so having more babies born who required more specialized care is placing an even tighter strain on hospitals in these areas. As a result, hospitals are attempting to highlight the urgency with which they need funding in order to properly treat these babies.
As Dr. Loudin pointed out to CNN, it is incredibly important that we direct our focus as a country to helping people deal with their addictions properly. By helping the adults who are struggling with addiction, the rate of babies being born already addicted to drugs can only decrease.
Loudin stated how pleased he was with lawmakers for putting an end to the "pill mills" that continued to fuel the nation's prescription opiate problem. However, since those have been shut down, the dependence on heroin has only increased because people's addictions to those opiates have not been properly treated.