Addicted birth rate gradually rises

MIAMI COUNTY — Not quite two years has passed since Governor John Kasich announced plans to address the epidemic among babies born to mothers who are addicted to opiate painkillers and heroin.

The Maternal Opiate Medical Support (M.O.M.S.) Project was started to improve health outcomes and reduce costs associated with extended hospital stays by neutralizing the impact of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, known as NAS. Between 2004 and 2011, inpatient hospitalization rate 10,000 live births of babies with NAS increased from 14 to 88.

The number of babies born with drug addictions has increased across the nation and is still a problem in Ohio in 2015.

Director of Nursing and Women’s Services at Upper Valley Medical Center Teri Gulker said the number of drug-addicted babies born at UVMC has gradually increased over the years. She can remember the years when no babies were born with drug addictions; this past year, six of the 643 babies born at UVMC were born addicted to narcotics that the hospital knows of.

“With narcotics we tend to see the pain medications, medications people may have taken from grandma for a backache,” she said. “We see women who have had teeth removed or dental work and are on some sort of pain pills. Heroin right now is big. We see babies addicted to heroin and methadone.”

The six out of 643 figure does not reflect marijuana usage, which is on the rise, or cigarette usage by the mother, which accounts for 25 percent of patients.

Gulker said irritability, excessive crying and being jittery are basic signs of withdrawal in newborns and are obvious for a health practitioner to spot.

“It takes about 24 to 48 hours to see it,” she said. “When the baby is born they have some of that drug in their body and you see the withdrawal process. If we know ahead of time we can start some medication to help them, but a lot of times we don’t know because moms are afraid to admit it.”

Whether or not drug addiction as a baby will have long-term effects on a child varies. Gulker said some children could have problems with learning to read or an attention disorder, while others may go through their life with no problems at all.

“Every child is different, so it depends on how much of a drug they take,” she said. “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is also a problem.”

Gulker encouraged expectant mothers who are using narcotics to be honest with their doctors about the drug usage.

“He or she can help with the withdrawal program,” she said. “You don’t want to withdraw anything abruptly and the physician would be able to help with that.”