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Growing number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs

Growing number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs



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OGDEN — Healthcare professionals across the country have a growing concern as more and more babies are being born addicted to pain pills.

Utah hospitals are learning to deal with this growing trend of new babies painfully withdrawing to the medicines their mothers took while they were pregnant. In many cases, the withdrawal symptoms are quite severe.

Dr. Robert Christensen works as the Medical Director of Neonatology for the Intermountain Healthcare Urban North Region, and he has seen the problems that these babies experience.

"These are the fussiest babies in the unit," Christensen said. "Fussy is not the right word to describe it. They are really out of control crying."

In the past five years, Christensen has seen the types of drugs being used and abused by pregnant moms change from illegal drugs to prescription pain pills. The different drugs cause new symptoms and side affects for the innocent babies.

"They are so fussy that they basically have to be held 24 hours a day while they are being treated for their withdrawal syndrome," Christensen said.


These are the fussiest babies in the unit. Fussy is not the right word to describe it. They are really out of control crying.

–Dr. Robert Christensen, Medical Director of Neonatology


Currently, about four babies out of 1,000 are affected by the prescription addiction, which means there are about two babies in a NICU at any time who are going through withdrawal to the prescription drugs their mother took.

Christensen says it takes about a month to get the babies ready to go home.

"The fetus being exposed to those narcotics is born, and that cord is cut, and the supply is cut, and it's like cold turkey," he said.

A new study estimates that 13,500 babies are born every year addicted to prescription drugs. Dr. Christensen says many of the mothers take narcotics for chronic pain of some kind.

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Mary Richards

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