Doctors Aren’t ‘Equipped’ To Handle Massive Spike In Heroin Addicted Babies

Opioids in a baggie. David Smart/Shutterstock.com

The number of babies born with addictions to opioids and debilitating withdrawal symptoms is rapidly growing amid the national heroin epidemic, up by double digits over 2016.

Prescription painkillers are propelling the recent heroin epidemic ravaging the U.S., which is claiming more lives each year at an alarming rate. One of the most disturbing impact is on children of addicts who are being born with addictions of their own. Six in every 1,000 babies were born with opioid withdrawal in 2013, up from 1.5 in every 1,000 babies in 1999. That number is likely growing larger amid the ongoing crisis, reports Cleveland.com.

Carl Ayers, director of family services with the Virginia Department of Social Services, recently testified to lawmakers that the rate of newborns suffering opioid withdrawal is up 21 percent for 2016. Hospitals in more rural areas of the country are seeing the largest influx of babies born to drug addicted parents.

“When they are born, because they’re no longer being exposed to an opiate, they’re going to go through withdrawal,” Dr. Sean Loudin, medical director of a neonatal therapeutic unit at Cabell Huntington Hospital in West Virginia, told CNN. “That is what we deal with. We deal with babies going through withdrawal.”

Problems linked to opioid exposure in the womb are long lasting, according to recent research. A study published in the journal Pediatrics Monday analyzed 2,200 people born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and found they do progressively worse in school and their test scores suffer when compared with their peers.

In states hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis, social services are becoming overwhelmed by the need for child care. Officials in Ohio say that opioids are the main driver of a 19 percent spike in the number of kids removed from parental custody for foster care since 2010.

“Honestly, if something doesn’t happen with this addiction crisis, we can lose a generation of kids,” Robin Reese, executive director of Lucas County Children Services, told The Wall Street Journal in December. “God knows I would hate to see orphanages come back, but the child-protection system is being inundated now.”

Heroin deaths reached new highs last year and the problem only seems to be accelerating. Luzerne County in Pennsylvania has a death rate from drugs four times larger than New York City due to the heroin scourge, despite a population of just 318,000. The community went from roughly 12 drug related deaths a decade ago to 137 in 2015. New York itself experienced a 135.7 percent increase in synthetic opioid and heroin-induced deaths between 2014 and 2015.

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