Study shows increase in babies born with drug dependency

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows an increase in the number of babies born with drug dependency and that the increase is higher in rural America.

“Many different drugs can cause this but the drug which has really gotten our attention in the last few years are those in the Opioid class,” said Dr. Stefan Kertesz. He’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UAB and an expert on Opioids.

“Fentanyl or heroin, hydrocodone which is manufactured and sold as the name Lortab, Percocet, those are the kinds of drugs that a lot of people have developed a real substance abuse disorder with,” he said.

Pregnant mothers who abuse these drugs pass their dependence to the baby.

Kertesz said it’s very important to understand these babies aren’t born with an addiction, but they are experiencing withdrawals.

“They might cry more, they might be irritable  they might have fever but they require much more care and attention,” he said.

Tuesday, we told you about the arrest of four people in Etowah County. They were all charged with drug trafficking in addition to other drug related crimes. Heroin was recovered during one of the busts. Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin said they are doing what they can to take drugs off their streets but it’s an ongoing battle.

Dr. Kertesz said law enforcement is only one piece of the puzzle.

“Most policy experts would say, you’ll never get a handle on this problem entirely by controlling the supply because there will always be new supply,” said Kertesz.

But he said there is hope. And steps need to be taken sooner rather than later.

“We have to quickly expand access to treatment. In a state like Alabama, access to subsidized medical therapy for addiction is pretty much non-existent. There are states where that’s not the case  We need to work to emulate that pattern,” he said.

Dr. Kertesz said that there is no evidence that a child born with a drug dependency will have an addiction later in life. He said the withdrawals are treatable.

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