More Florida Babies Born Addicted to Prescription Drugs

Dr. Terri Ashmeade.
Dr. Terri Ashmeade.
TAMPA (2011-2-14) -

New numbers from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration reveal a growing epidemic of babies addicted to prescription painkillers.

In the last five years, the number of Florida babies treated for withdrawal tripled while the total number of births declined. Almost a thousand babies were born addicted to painkillers in 2009.

And now, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports 635 cases of newborn withdrawal syndrome in just the first half of last year.

Dr. Terri Ashmeade heads the neonatal intensive care unit at Tampa General Hospital. She says of the 30 or 40 babies in the unit at any given time, 3 or 4 are in withdrawal from prescription drugs.

"They have feeding problems, they have vomiting, they have diarrhea, they have muscle stiffness and tremors," Ashmeade said. "They cry inconsolably. And in the worst case scenarios, they have seizures."

Addicted newborns typically spend 1 to 6 weeks in the hospital being treated. Doctors say no one will know the long-term health effects until these babies grow up.

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