For years we’ve known about fetal alcohol syndrome and crack babies, but now it’s time to talk about drug-addicted mothers in general. They give birth to the most innocent victims of drug addiction: drug-addicted babies. In recent years, this problem has mostly revolved around the rise of prescription painkiller abuse.
OxyContin and other opiates are highly addictive and painful to withdraw from. Babies inherit this addiction from addicted mothers, and the first thing they experience when they are born is withdrawal. In 2013, almost 1,000 babies were born to opiate drug-addicted mothers in Tennessee. That same year in Massachusetts, the rate of birth-induced addiction was 17.5 per 1,000 births — over 3x the national average. These are only a few states, and the problem is huge for the whole county.
Treating Drug-Addicted Mothers & Babies
As the national painkiller epidemic gets worse, individual states are pioneering their own efforts to deal with the problem of drug-addicted mothers. We’ll highlight the recent efforts of 3 states and their doctors, politicians, and concerned individuals.
Earlier this week, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed for The Cincinnati Enquirer, addressing drug-addicted mothers in his state of Indiana. According to the Senator, the state has the 3rd highest drug-induced death rate and has seen a 3,000% increase in infant drug withdrawals since 2000. In response, he has introduced legislation called “Protecting Our Infants Act”, which would promote treatment and research on this problem at the national level.
The Drug-Free Mother Baby Greenbrier Valley program was started in 2012 to help in an area where 20% of babies are born to drug-addicted mothers. It’s one of 4 similar statewide efforts to treat addiction before birth occurs. Already, it’s seen success stories. WVNSTV reports that 68% of mothers get clean between pregnancy tests and birth, and 67% also get clean between prenatal checkups.
The Magee-Women’s Hospital at UPC recently launched an outpatient treatment program for drug-addicted mothers. This program seeks to improve treatment in two crucial ways. First, it uses the opioid replacement drug buprenorphine (an active ingredient in Suboxone & Subutex, which has been described as “Methadone 2.0”).
Studies show it to be just as effective as methadone, but without the painful side effects of detox. Secondly, the Magee program prescribes buprenorphine weekly instead of daily. This will give poorer mothers incentive to stick with the program, whereas they are often unable to go to methadone clinics, where methadone must be dispensed daily.