State Officials Warn Of Babies Born Addicted

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Updated: 7/12/2013 6:07 pm
When it comes to addicts, there is no one-size-fits-all.

You have people who legally take pain pills, you have abusers, and both sides can become addicted.

And you have those who are simply victims--born addicted. Their mothers misused prescription painkillers--or used illicit opiate drugs.

There's an alarming rise in Kentucky's newborns being addicted to painkillers over the last decade, according to Attorney General Jack Conway.

"We have seen a 2,500 percent increase in the number of babies born with neo natal abstinence syndrome," said Conway, "A few years ago we would have had a few dozen of these babies, and now we're approaching a thousand."

Douglas Cunningham, a professor of pediatrics at University of Kentucky Medical Center, said it's a weekly issue.

"Thinking back ten years ago, in a typical month we'd have one or two babies with this problem.  Presently, on any given day we have five or six or as many as ten babies," he said.

That increase has doctors on edge, because early on they can make a difference...but long-term is another story.

"Despite the care we give them as infants, their life years after that is very much in question," said Cunningham.

Who's to blame? The attorney general told ABC 36 it's the pharmaceutical companies who pushed painkillers more than a decade ago.

"If you take a look at the trend lines when Purdue Pharma began marketing oxycontin and putting millions and millions behind it to tell doctors all across this country that they could prescribe oxycontin with a very low risk of addiction.  That was not supported by the science. They out and out lied to the medical community in this country," said Conway.

The attorney general calls the pharmaceutical lies the "height of corporate irresponsibility."

Meantime, the victims too young to understand the blame suffer the consequences. Doctors are learning to treat it, and someone has to pay for it.

"It is a huge burden to the economy. Certainly the healthcare system itself," said Conway.

The attorney general's office has filed suit against Purdue Pharma--the manufacturers of Oxycontin.

As a side note, doctors said many of the moms who deliver babies dependent on drugs didn't realize they had a problem. A large majority of them get help before they leave the hospital, and, of course, the babies are immediately treated for their dependency.
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