Babies born drug addicted


By Linda Moody

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DARKE COUNTY — Darke County is overwhelmed with drug issues. Not only does drug usage affect the users, but also their families and friends who care about them.

And, one step further, if a woman is using and becomes pregnant, that child, too, is affected, perhaps for life.

Annie Sonner, director of the Shelter from Violence in Darke County, is concerned about these innocent little parties.

“I know we have women in our county and surrounding counties that are pregnant or were that use drugs,” Sonner said. “I have a friend who said she works with these babies and it is very sad watching them go through withdrawal. I was told [in one area city] that if the mother tests positive, the baby doesn’t go home with her, but I am not sure if that is accurate. I know it is hard to be a parent when you are a normal mother, but they just can’t when they need to get drugs for their addiction. They may love the kids, but addiction trumps their love and becomes a physical need.”

Sonner said she is not sure what is done in Darke County.

“I think we need to talk about it and then figure out what can we do about it,” Sonner said. “Bless the families that step in and help. I don’t feel the mother should keep having children under these circumstances. Another issue that pulls the county down is caring for these children. Foster families are so needed and appreciated.”

Regina Duff, RN, director of obstetrics at Wayne HealthCare, said babies who are born addicted do not typically show symptoms at birth.

“It usually shows up as early as two hours and as late as 48 hours after birth depending on the severity of addiction,” she said. “Babies who are born addicted to opiates such as methadone, heroin and Percocet show major withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include neurological symptoms such as sneezing, jitteriness, tremors and seizures.”

Those babies born addicted, she said, show developmental delay, ADHD and ADD along with other neurological issues, depending on the length and amount of drug abuse.

“GI symptoms such as diarrhea and spitting up more than usual,” she said. “They have an increased need to suck and they cry a lot. They cannot self regulate-can’t calm themselves down. They also have elevated temp, respiratory rate and sweat.”

Duff said it is important for pregnant moms to recognize the importance of not taking opiates during pregnancy.

“Moms might take opiates for a backache or toothache and think that it is not harming the baby but what they need to realize is that it does harm the unborn child and their babies can become addicted,” she said. “It is important to recognize and provide non-judgmental support for narcotic addicted women and get them the treatment that they need.”

“Our babies who are born addicted are transferred to Children’s Medical Center in Dayton, where they are cared for,” she said.

According to her, most opiates have a black box warning label. There is current talk in legislation at the national level to have withdrawal in neonatal put on this label (does not have currently show this on label, unsure of all the details.)

“If we suspect drug abuse prior to delivery, a random drug screen will be performed,” Duff reported.

The following is a web site that gives an explanation of what is going on in the state to improve the care of these infants.

This information can be found at

It’s no secret that pregnant women risk harm to their unborn fetus when they abuse drugs. How much harm depends on the type of drug, the severity of the drug abuse, and the period of the fetus’s development during gestation. While there are of course some prescription drugs that a woman may have to take during a pregnancy, even certain prescription drugs can be dangerous to a developing infant. Alcohol can be just as devastating, if not more so, with infants often suffering fetal alcohol syndrome.

Another website indicated that illegal drugs of today include cocaine, crack, and meth, with cocaine being one of the most common. Babies exposed to these and other drugs often spend longer amounts of time in the hospital immediately after birth, and many experience lifelong health problems.

An additional account stated that doctors in the United States are seeing more infants born addicted to narcotic painkillers — a problem highlighted by a new Florida-based report.

One doctor said the infants go through a difficult time, but they do recover. Withdrawal can take a few weeks to a month.

“Sometimes it’s enough to keep these babies in a quiet environment, but almost four out of five need treatment with morphine or the anticonvulsant phenobarbital to quell seizures and other withdrawal symptoms,” the doctor said.

Drug-addicted babies can exhibit a variety of symptoms. Because of this, many adoptive and foster families hesitate to take on the care of a drug addicted baby. Sadly, this means that many babies are sent to orphanages or left for extended periods of time in hospitals. While of course their basic needs are taken care of, that special one-on-one bonding that a child should receive from a parent is often lacking. Not only do these children have to endure physical problems that may be associated with their birth mothers’ drug abuse, but they may also be slow to develop socially and emotionally.

Babies who have lived the first several months with a parent who is a drug abuser may be even more difficult to bond with once they are adopted or sent to foster care. Toddlers who have lived in this environment have often been left for long periods on their own, virtually taking care of themselves any way they could. These children may have trust issues, and they shun any physical contact as well.

Other symptoms of drug addicted babies include the following: Low birth weight, disturbed sleep patterns hyperactive, low frustration tolerance, easily startled, easily woken, irritable, poor feeding habits, rapid heartbeat, excessive sudden movements, urinary tract defects, impaired motor skills, delayed social skills and behavior problems

“Anything the mother has in her system is going to be in the baby’s system as well,” Dr. Michael Tawney, chief medical officer for McLaren Port Huron hospital said. “When the baby is born, the baby is suddenly without those drugs, and they begin to have withdrawal symptoms. They’re a mess because their system is used to having this steady diet of drugs and now the drug is gone.”

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