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Tennessee Babies Born Addicted to Drugs

Mothers share nearly everything with their babies. The placenta passes nutrients and oxygen, hormones and other essential ingredients for the development of the growing baby through the umbilical cord.

Waste products are also passed back through the cord, through the placenta and then disposed of.

Doctors once believed that unborn children are protected from many undesirable chemicals while in the womb. We now realize that toxins the mother is exposed to, environmental poisons and dangerous chemicals in food, water or atmosphere are in fact, transferred to the child.

Of course it has been known for years that children can be born experiencing sever withdrawal symptoms due to the mother's use of addictive substances during pregnancy. This is especially true if the drugs were used during the last few weeks prior to birth. So it really shouldn't have come as a surprise that other toxins are also transferrable in the same way.

This is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The child is literally born addicted to drugs. Opioids can be the most horrific, but this would of course include addiction to nicotine, alcohol, amphetamines or any addictive drug. And the effects on the developing, forming nervous systems of the children we can only guess at.

The heartbreaking part is when the newborn is so addicted that it can be necessary to actually administer medications such as Buprenorphine or methadone to help get them through the initial, acute withdrawal period.

A recent report in The Tennessean, stated that 1031 cases of NAS were recorded in Tennessee in 2014 out of a total of 81,602 live births. That increase in NAS cases correlates with increased incidence of drug abuse and addiction during pregnancy.

Symptoms of NAS are, not surprisingly, similar to the withdrawal symptoms that any addict might be exposed to when going through this process:

Of particular concern are vomiting and seizures. While vomiting is not unusual during drug or alcohol withdrawal, it can be serious for a newborn due to the likelihood of aspiration, the inhaling of stomach fluids. Seizures at any age can result in a host of problems, including paralysis.

Tennessee legislators introduced a bill that termed this "Fetal Assault". It proposed punishments for giving birth to an addiction child. But the bill died in Congress and there is still not a replacement. Really, the only two approaches to the reduction of NAS are prevention and treatment; prevention in the form of effective education on the subject in schools and other youth programs and effective and easily available drug rehabilitation offered to the public.

Illicit Drug Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 12 or Older in Tennessee, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2010, 2011, and 2012 NSDUHs (Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health)

In 2010, the number of a drug overdose deaths in Tennessee represented a rise of 250 % over the ten year period.

Tennessee State Government Agencies

Drug Abuse Facts

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