“Addicted at birth” sounds like a hopeless case. But it’s not. It may or may not be news for some folks but a lot of babies are born “addicts” every day. In the US alone, a baby with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is born every hour – a sad statistic but not entirely hopeless. Some professionals would like to point out he more politically correct term, which is “chemically dependent”. Addiction and the state of being addicted aren’t limited to chemical dependence. Some experts even say that addiction in itself tends to be more behavioral as opposed to chemical and physical. As the birth of babies are usually equated to new life and beginnings, how about those babies who are injected numerous drugs just hours after they’re born to minimize the withdrawal symptoms?
Contrary to popular belief, drugs and pregnancy aren’t limited to the 19 and under set. Teen pregnancy is usually seen as the culprit to the deadly mix of addiction while being pregnant. Some women who do get pregnant while taking drugs are already involved in a heady lifestyle of prostitution, criminal activities, and/or violence. Although there are educated, upper class, middle-aged women who do get pregnant while addicted to drugs, these are often seen as the minority. However, recent studies have shown a steady increase in pregnant women of all walks of life who get addicted to painkillers, which is quite alarming.
So what happens to pregnant women who are found to be taking drugs? They’re not detoxed. Withdrawal is never good for a pregnant woman as this is going to result in premature delivery or even fetal death. Other drugs are given to help regulate the pregnancy and deliver a baby to full term.
The numerous risks involved with drug abuse while pregnant include: low birth weight, placental abruption, fetal stress resulting to intrauterine passage of meconium, and fetal death. Mothers who are routinely stressed and smoke cigarettes are also at risk of low weight gain (for themselves and their babies) and other health issues that could potentially harm a baby.
To go back in history, in the 1980s, there was an increase in “crack babies”. These babies were born to mothers addicted to crack or heroin. It was thought that these babies were going to be deficient in all aspects. Physical deformities, behavioral abnormalities, and mental insufficiencies were all thought to happen to these babies. Time has proven otherwise and if this is any indication of what fate could have in store for this generation’s “addicted” babies, then all is well for the future.
Apparently, if the mother had a good diet, some of the adverse effects of various drugs could be reversed. Babies are stronger than we give them credit for and nurses and doctors are often surprised at the resiliency of babies who are recovering from intrauterine drug exposure. There are many cases of babies who grow up to be normal toddlers despite being born prematurely due to intrauterine drug intake.