Cases of Painkiller-Addicted Babies Surge

By Luke Walker 11/15/11

Growing numbers of newborn babies are suffering withdrawal symptoms after getting hooked on pain pills in the womb.

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Unborn babies are dosed with pain pills.
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Babies all around the country are increasingly being born already hooked on prescription painkillers like Oxycontin, after being exposed to their mothers' drug use in the womb, reports USA Today. Like the crack babies of the 1980s, these infants begin life suffering from withdrawal symptoms, like twitching, vomiting, breathing difficulties and scratching. Although national stats aren't available, figures from several states outline the pattern. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration recorded the number of infants suffering from withdrawal syndrome rose from 354 in 2006 to 1,374 in 2010, continuing a surge previously reported in Florida. Maine Medical Center in Portland treated 121 painkiller-dependent babies in 2010, compared to just 18 in 2001. And 106 addicted babies needed treatment at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in the last year—a number that's more than doubled since 2008. “It has just exploded. Narcotic use is just rampant in our society,” says John Buchheit, director of neonatology there. “Babies are caught in the middle.” It's a logical result of a nationwide epidemic that's seen painkiller OD deaths triple in ten years, but as Tampa General Hospital's director of newborn services Lewis Rubin says, it's no less shocking for that: "It's really horrible to see these kids. They look in so much pain."

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