Thousands Hooked to Prescription Pills in the Womb

By Jason Gotlieb 07/28/11

Babies are bearing the brunt of America's growing pill habit, show Florida records.

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In the first half of 2010, 635 babies were born in Florida already addicted to prescription pills, records have shown. Prescription drug overdoses have also risen by 265% in the state since 2003. "We all need to be concerned," said Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti. The head nurse at Broward General Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit described the infants' suffering: "They go through withdrawal symptoms. They're crampy, miserable. They sweat. They can have rapid breathing. Sometimes, they can even have seizures." In 2009, the number of babies born addicted to prescription pills nationwide exceeded the number of crack babies, and the problem has grown ever since, particularly in rural areas. Mothers often resist seeking help for fear that their babies will be taken away from them. But medical supervision is necessary to wean pregnant women off their prescriptions, because of a risk that a baby will go into withdrawal in the womb. Doctors can face dilemmas in balancing the interests of mother and unborn child when it comes to treatment and withdrawal. The American Pregnancy Association says it's "important that you inform your health care provider of any drugs that you are taking." They also explain the FDA Use-in-Pregnancy Ratings with regard to common prescription drugs. Xanax is Category D, or "Positive evidence of risk," while Tylenol with Codeine and Ritalin are Category C, "Risk can not be ruled out." The White House Office on Drug Control Policy states that prescription pill abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem.

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Jason Gotlieb is a programmer, software developer, and writer living in New York. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.