Babies As Unwilling Drug Addicts

(hla) THERE is an increase in babies being admitted into neonatal intensive care units as they begin their life as unwilling addicts, reports

The condition suffered by these babies is medically termed as 'neonatal abstinence syndrome'. According to the United States' National Library of Medicine, neonatal abstinence syndrome occurs when a pregnant woman takes opiate or narcotic drugs such as heroine, codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin) methadone or buprenorphine.
If basic medication such as Aspirin has been said to be harmful to a developing baby, how much more damage can potent drugs cause? As everything that enters the mother's body system passes through the placenta in the womb, the baby can also involuntarily become addicted to the drugs.

Symptoms are said to usually manifest within 1 to 7 days after birth. They include diarrhoea, blotchy skin colouring, excessive crying or sucking, fever, hyperactive reflexes, increased muscle tone, poor feeding, rapid breathing, seizures, stuffy nose, sweating, tremors and vomiting.

Nurse practitioner Kay Mathias who spends her time caring for babies affected by their mother's addiction sympathises with them, saying that "it is a tough way to come into the world."

The babies suffering from such condition are treated at designated hospitals to help them rid themselves of the drugs and cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

Babies in this circumstance usually suffer from rough neonatal abstinence syndrome. They can be on very high doses of drugs, which are tapered down gradually every day, before being able to get off them completely.

These infants are reported to be "very irritable... (and) have a high-pitched cry. They have very high muscle tone, tremors, (and) some, in the worst-case scenario, can actually seize," said Dr. Monique Satpute, a neonatalogist at the Mount Washington Paediatric Hospital.

Not only do they find difficulty in sleeping, it will also be a challenge for the babies to gain weight. Satpute also added that studies have shown that these children are at risk for learning disabilities.

Aside from using a drug treatment plan, hospitals dealing with such cases also employ alternative methods such as massage, music and light therapy to soothe and calm the babies.

The urgency of the situation is clear with Mount Washington Paediatric Hospital claiming that the hospital has seen about 100 babies who needed drug treatment in 2014.

The pressing question is if the solution to this problem is only to relieve these babies from the addiction. Mathias is of the opinion that the problem lies with the environment: "Where are they going back to? What kind of mothers are they going to have? What kind of violence are they going to be subjected to? And these kinds of issues can cause more long-term devastation on than the actual opiate itself."

Babies born to mothers addicted to drugs are likely to suffer from birth defects, low birth weight, premature birth, small head circumference, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and problems with development and behaviour. The Mirror reported a shocking figure of at least 4 babies being born addicted to heroin, crack cocaine and other drugs. Based on figures from the National Health Service organisations, they found that 464 babies were born to addicts in Wales, 738 in Scotland and 6,599 in England in the last five years.

By Genevieve Tan Shu Thung

Copyright © 2015 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (AUGUST 2015)

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