Children in NYC suffer from congenital drug addiction
NEW YORK - November 17, 2018
New shocking information has come out about many children in New York City being addicted to alcohol or drugs from birth.
According to Mount Sinai NICU Follow-Up Clinic data, the figure ranges from 100,000 to 150,000 children born in the United States who have the so-called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
Signs of newborn dependency are when they are unable to calm down, when their limbs, hands, and feet clench, and if they suffocate. Over the past decade, the number of babies born to mothers battling addiction has increased every year.
NAS occurs when a pregnant woman takes addictive drugs during pregnancy, with the baby becoming addicted, which continues after birth.
Dr. Jennifer Bragg, neonatologist and director at the Mount Sinai NICU Follow-Up Clinic in New York City, has been working closely with many babies that suffer through NAS in New York.
Bragg explains that one of the babies she’s helping is one of the most severe cases, having a mother who’s addicted to both heroin and tobacco. The baby has been going through withdrawal in her first month of life, trembling, wailing, and sometimes gasping for breath.
"She's been given morphine to get the withdrawals under control and she’s having trouble eating and sleeping," Bragg said.
Scenes like this play out every day in hospitals across the country, as increasing numbers of women of childbearing age struggle with opioid addiction. Nationally, the rate of American children born with NAS has quadrupled over the past 15 years and a child is now born with the disease every 20 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The sharpest increase in such cases, according to doctors is recorded in New York. Bragg once again urged that it needs to be a priority question.
"Our work with NAS babies has been more extended and needed here in New York City in the recent years due to the opioid epidemic," the doctor added.
At the NICU Follow-Up clinic in New York City, they work closely with the NAS babies since they need special care and are difficult to handle. Bragg explains that babies can have a wide range of different symptoms and are extremely vulnerable. They don't do well with a lot of light, a lot of loud noises and don’t like to be touched, so the doctors try to help them with as little handling as possible.
"The key is in preventable care and to support these families throughout the pregnancy," Bragg said. "The more we can support the family structure, the better the outcomes will be."
The prognosis for babies born with NAS is still unknown, which worries health officials.
"I know that the long-term risks for a baby born with NAS are definitely multi-factorial," Bragg said.
Children with NAS may experience developmental delays or attention problems later in life. Research by the Tennessee University has found that children with NAS are more likely to end up in the foster care system.
New York, like many other states, is suffering the consequences of the ongoing opioid-epidemic that has taken many lives. Bragg believes that babies born with NAS are a major issue and that it's her job as a doctor to give these babies and their families support.
"To watch a baby that is going through withdrawals and suffers is heartbreaking," Bragg said. "No baby should be going through that."