More addicted babies born, go through withdrawal

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Capital News Service

LANSING— Babies who are born addicted to drugs are a growing problem in Michigan.

The disorder is called neonatal abstinence syndrome and it affects newborns whose mothers were addicted to opiate drugs while they were pregnant. The baby becomes addicted, along with the mother, to substances such as heroin, oxycodone or methadone.

The babies have symptoms of withdrawal that include excessive crying, seizures, trembling, poor feeding, diarrhea and sleep problems, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. And it’s not just a problem in urban areas.

“The opiate drug epidemic in northern Michigan is hurting babies and tearing families apart,” said John Keller, director of the Alpena/Montmorency Department of Health and Human Services. “We’re seeing it in the growing number of babies going to the neonatal intensive care unit with the symptoms and we’re seeing it in the growing caseloads in the courts and Children’s Protective Services.”

The region with the highest rate includes Marquette, Delta and Luce counties at 2,102.3 addicted babies per 100,000 born, according to the Michigan Health & Hospital Association Service Corporation.

The region made up of Gladwin, Genesee, Arenac and Bay counties had the second- highest rate with 1,408.5 addicted babies per 100,000 born.

In 2010, 404 newborn babies were treated for the syndrome in Michigan. By 2014, the number had more than doubled to 815, according to theHealth and Hospital Association.

“Addiction to opioid pain killers has been an increasing problem in Michigan and nationwide,” said Laura Wotruba, director of public affairs for the association.

Other health professionals agree.

Highly addictive painkillers leading to prescription drug abuse and to the use of illegal drugs are the problem, said Bob Wheaton, public information officer for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Too many pregnant women are addicted to these opioids and struggle to overcome their dependency, leading to great harm to their babies,” he said.

“Everyone, including women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, needs to be aware of the addictive nature of opioids and that their babies can be born suffering from terrible withdrawal symptoms if they use these drugs during pregnancy,” Wheaton said. “They need to be aware that help is available in overcoming their dependency, for their own good and for the good of their babies.”

Several community organizations in northern Michigan recently produced a video to raise awareness of the syndrome.

“Stories Not Secrets,” released in Alpena, includes advice from health professionals and stories from recovering mothers.

“Treatment is available and people suffering from addiction should not be afraid to seek treatment,” Wheaton said. “More public awareness of this problem is a key, which is why this video was created.”

Stories Not Secrets is at

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