It is well-known that addiction impacts more than just the addict themselves. Families, friends, and employers all experience collateral damage from the ravages of addiction. But never is the case so much as infants born to drug-addicted mothers- and the numbers of these are growing substantially in Maryland.
Effect of Prenatal Drug Exposure
Addiction is a ruthless disease, and doesn’t discriminate who its victims will be. Unfortunately, this includes pregnant women. Women who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction often don’t have the tools or resources they need to stop using when they become pregnant. Or, the stress and hormonal swings involved in pregnancy can potentially make relapse more likely, even in someone who has maintained a period of sobriety. But just as infants receive nutrients and vitamins from the food and drink their mother consumes, they also receive any drugs the mother takes. This can have devastating impacts on the development of the fetus, and newborns that have been exposed to drugs while in the womb can suffer from tremors, feeding difficulties, and inability to be comforted- functionally, signs of drug withdrawal. More severe cases can even mean seizures and dangerous weight loss for the infants. This is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. This applies not only to drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers, but to drugs like buprenorphine, that are used to help addicts stop using illegal substances. Just like adults, infants can be weaned off of substances at the hospital, but there is minimal long-term data showing any effects these infants may experience throughout their lifetime.
Growing Prenatal Drug Exposure in Maryland
A recent Baltimore Sun article reports that the number of Maryland babies that are born with opiates or other drugs already in their system has increased substantially- a 56.6% increase over the last nine years, with 1,419 such cases in 2015. This rise has given way to hospital programs meant to help, like those that employ volunteers to “cuddle” and help soothe these infants as they recover in the NICU. It is the hope that having additional hands to soothe and comfort these infants may reduce the amount of medication-assisted withdrawal that is necessary. Attempts are also being made to identify pregnant drug users early on in the pregnancy, to help them find solutions, but oftentimes the delivery is the first time these women even get to the hospital. The recovery period for infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome is generally around 26 days in Maryland, and healthcare organizations in the state are frantically trying to develop standards of care and efficient programs that will not only reduce these occurrences, but will provide the best possible care for these infants. Screening expectant mothers and applying standard evaluation systems to the infants is a promising first step in an all-around devastating situation. Further steps are needed, though. As stated many times before, more treatment options are needed for people suffering from addiction, and more resources need to be introduced to help those of limited financial means.
Help is Available
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the professional staff at Serenity Acres is ready to help. Call today for your free confidential assessment, to see if inpatient treatment may be the answer you are looking for: 1-800-203-2024.