Doctors discuss epidemic of babies born addicted to drugs

Doctors discuss epidemic of drug addicted babies

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Just last week, CASA of Vanderburgh County announced that within the last 30 days, the Department of Child Services has been called for 13 infants who were born addicted to drugs.

On Monday, we heard more from doctors at Deaconess Women’s Hospital. Doctors are calling it an epidemic, and it’s a complicated issue to tackle.

One doctor tells us that he believes addiction will always be an issue. So in order to try and break the cycle of having it affect newborn babies, we’re learning you have to make sure the mothers are getting treatment as well.

The NICU is where babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) receive treatment at Deaconess Women’s Hospital. NAS can lead to a number of problems for newborns.

“They breathe fast, they’re agitated. From a nervous system standpoint, they’re irritable, they cry a lot, they are hard to console," said Dr. Ron Pyle, Director of Neonatal Transport and Outreach. “From a GI standpoint, they have feeding issues they can have loose stools which can lead to rashes and other things."

Often times, these symptoms can be the first signs of drug use by the mother. Dr. Brennan Fitzpatrick, Director of Perinatal and Ultrasound, tells us that mothers aren’t always forthcoming about their struggles with addiction during pregnancy.

“Moms are afraid that if they do mention to us, that there would be legal repercussions for that,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick.

He says he wishes to eliminate that negative stigma so that mothers will feel comfortable being honest with their doctors. Dr. Fitzpatrick says they can transition off of opiates using buprenorphine.

Medical professionals also work with the mothers to find the right addiction treatment program with the hopes that both the mom and baby remain healthy once they go home.

“From the first time I lay hands on them, they are my baby, and I adopt the parents too," said Dr. Pyle. “In order to break the cycle, it’s that if you get them into a program and you have to treat the baby, that you give the mom the resources when she goes home to continue that progression that she has made to break that addiction and when she does. . . then the next baby, I won’t ever see."

Deaconess leaders say if a baby does test positive for an illegal or unprescribed drug, the hospital automatically calls DCS.

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