BROWNSVILLE — A new national study just recently released shows that the number of babies born addicted to drugs has tripled in the last decade.
"The numbers have continued to increase around where the nationwide (average) is, between two to three percent of every one thousand babies that are born will have some sort of drug withdraw,” says Dr. Gerardo Sanchez.
Neonatologist Dr. Gerardo Sanchez of Valley Baptist Medical Center in Brownsville says that long ago, the number here in the valley represented about only one percent of drug addicted babies.
"Right now what we're seeing is an increase in the babies that have illicit drugs or the streets drugs, like cocaine, but we are also seeing, in the last couple of years, an increased number of mommies that have been on pain killers all throughout the pregnancy and the babies are withdrawn," says Dr. Sanchez.
When referring to drugs, alcohol is also in the mix.
He says that sometimes the withdraw symptoms in a newborn won't show up for three, five, maybe even seven days after birth. But in some cases, it's immediately clear to the neonatal staff that a child is experiencing withdraw. The symptoms are often physical.
"Like a very high pitch cry, they're very uncomfortable, you try to swaddle the baby and keep it comfortable and then baby is still crying. They may develop vomiting, diarrhea, the tone in which the muscle is increased, hypertonia, and they can even develop seizures," adds Dr. Sanchez.
Even if a baby is immediately treated, long term effects can linger.
"In cases like with alcohol we know that the baby will be small in size, they might have mental development problems, their brain will be small, may have motor defects, same things that go with cocaine and things like it," says Dr. Sanchez.
He adds that what doctors don't know are the long term effects of prescription pill use by a mother while she's carrying.
If it is determined that a baby is born addicted to drugs, doctors will score the baby to determine how much medicine needs to be given and they'll reduce the dose as the baby's withdraw conditions improve. The doctor adds for most babies, it takes about two weeks to be free from drug withdraw.