Increasing Numbers of Newborns Are Born Addicted to Pain Pills

A nurse administers methodone to a newborn, 4 weeks old.
A nurse administers methodone to a newborn, 4 weeks old.
via Damon Winter/The New York Times

This week, the New York Times called attention to a largely overlooked demographic of pain pill addicts -- newborn babies.

The Times reports that as pain pill abuse "ravages communities across the country," more newborns enter the world crying excessively, shaking, experiencing stiff limbs, and other problems "that make their first days of life excruciating" as they go through withdrawal.

It's no secret that Florida's pain pill addiction problems are nothing short of epidemic -- our state has pill mills serving up OxyContin the way McDonald's doles out hamburgers: cheaply, at a fast clip, and without much screening.

In fact, a Time magazine article even compares the number of Broward County "pill mills" to McDonald's restaurants: "There are more of these pain clinics here in Broward County than there are McDonald's restaurants: 115 so-called pill mills, vs. about 70 of the burger franchises."

It's not a stretch to realize that with a pool of addicted adults begging for appointments at these booked pain clinics comes a runoff of addicted babies.

The Times article is reported from Maine, where pill problems are rampant. Doctors there, as elsewhere, prescribe babies methadone or other treatments to ease them through opiate withdrawal. Some newborns have to stay in the neonatal unit for weeks for treatment and observation, an endeavor both sensitive and expensive. Hospitals in Florida, like hospitals in states including Maine and Ohio, have experienced significant increases in newborns treated for opiate withdrawal, according to the Times.

Treatment methods for newborns in withdrawal and long-term effects of varying courses of care are nebulous and have not been studied extensively. Now, as the discourse about pill mills continues, perhaps babies should be a conversation topic.

Follow The Juice on Twitter: @TheJuiceBPB.

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