KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Of every 1,000 babies born at least eight will be addicted to opioids. It’s a number that doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital said are staggering.
“I think it goes back to how we`ve been prescribing opioids to adults particularly to pregnant mothers. The threshold to treat pain has dramatically gone down over the years, which is why you`ve seen a five-fold increase in the amount of expecting mothers being on opioid medications of some sort,” Dr. Krishna Dummula, a neonatologist at KU Hosptial, said.
Dr. Dummula said a newborn who’s addicted is more likely to cry excessively, have problems feeding, and experience seizures in the first few days. And the unknown effects may be more troubling.
“At this time, the data is not quite certain about what the long-term effects are really going to be. But small studies have shown that they could have difficulty with coping in school, attention deficit disorders, and some aggressiveness in school,” Dr. Dummula said.
Martha Gershun, Executive Director of the Jackson County CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, shares the concern with children they help.
“What we do know is that we`ve been facing children who are born addicted to substances for a very long time. There was fetal alcohol syndrome, then there was crack cocaine, then methamphetamines. Opioids are the newest wave but in some ways it`s the most concerning wave,” Gershun said.
It’s a wave that Gershun said will put an even greater strain on community resources.
“If it turns out that they have trouble in school or it turns out that they have behavioral issues, if it turns out that they can`t grow up to be competent, safe, independent, adults, then we would have created an entirely new generation of adults who are dependent on the very system that failed to help them as children,” Gershun said.
NICU doctors at KU Hosptial said they’ve seen at least 10 cases and expect to see many more in the years to come.