Newborn prescription drug addiction in the spotlight

Five times more babies are born with prescription drug addiction in Florida currently than five years ago, pushing the epidemic into the spotlight in the Sunshine State.

Northeast Florida is particularly affected: In 2010, nearly nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Jacksonville and the four surrounding counties experienced newborn withdrawal, compared to six out of every 1,000 statewide. Long Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stays are the norm, as the babies can take days, weeks or months to fully detox.

Doctors aren’t the only ones taking notice of this growing issue. A new Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns was created through HB227 in the 2012 legislature.  The Task Force’s purpose is to research the impact of prescription drug use and neonatal withdrawal syndrome, evaluate effective strategies for treatment and prevention and providing policy recommendations to the Legislature.

The Florida House and Senate both unanimously passed the bill and it will now go to the Governor’s office for signature. It includes seats for both the Healthy Start Coalitions and March of Dimes.

The Task Force will hold its organizational session by May 1 and meet at least four times per year.

The controversial issue of methadone treatment for pregnant women addicted to drugs, including prescription drugs, is also making headlines.

An article  in the Spring 2012 edition of Northeast Florida Medicine: Addiction Medicine, entitled “Methadone Treatment in Pregnancy … That Can’t Be Right, Can It?” promotes the treatment. The author, Stacy Seikel, MD, advocates for the support of methadone or other opiate treatment program by physicians and families.

Methadone has been used for many years in pregnant addicts to protect the unborn baby from experiencing rapid withdrawal. While methadone often allows women to bring their pregnancy to term and deliver otherwise healthy babies, they are born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome that typically results in painful withdrawal and long NICU stays.