Tennessee: Rise in Prescription Drug-Addicted Newborns
Opioids the most commonly abused
Tennessee state hospitals are seeing an increase in the number of newborn babies suffering from prescription drug withdrawal.
While prescription drug abuse is a nationwide issue, an article on CNN.com points out that the rather new epidemic is particularly higher in Tennessee, which ranks among the top states in the overuse of prescription pain medications.
A recent Tennessee health department survey found that about a third of pregnant women in state treatment programs are addicted to prescription pain meds. The drug most commonly abused is opioids.
As a result, they are birthing babies who suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, which is the withdrawal process a newborn baby goes through after being exposured to certain medications while still in the womb. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 55% and 94% of babies exposed to opioids prior to birth exhibit signs of withdrawal.
Drug-dependant babies suffer from symptoms of agitation, consistent crying, seizures; and many cannot be near sound or light.
Since the epidemic is relatively new, doctors say there is no national protocol on how to treat NAS cases. In the mean time, the babies are being treated based on the severity of withdrawal and given small doses of morphine every three hours with feedings. The average hospital stay for the babies is 24 days. Then, many are released into the foster care system.
Doctors do not know the long-term effects of NAS cases. They are at an increased risk of having problems with learning and development throughout their childhood.