The number of babies born addicted to opioid painkillers in Florida skyrocketed by more than 1,000 percent over the past decade, and the situation continues to get worse.
Roughly 4,000 infants came into the world this year with a dependence on opioids in the state and the crisis is overwhelming hospitals and social services. The infants, born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), spend their first days suffering harsh withdrawal symptoms due to the drug abuse of their parents, and are often released back to those parents without any plans to monitor the child’s welfare, reports News Chief.
Doctors are still unsure what the lifetime repercussions of NAS may be for the infants, but short-term symptoms include seizures, trouble feeding, excessive crying, diarrhea and rapid breathing.
“It’s very difficult when you see a baby in the NICU, screaming and crying because they didn’t have a choice to be born addicted,” Faye Johnson, CEO of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, told the House Children, Families and Elder Affairs Subcommittee in Florida Wednesday, according to the News Chief. “It’s just very difficult to hear that high-pitched scream and to know that we’re doing everything we can and to also know that this is not the end. …There are years of trauma that come behind this.”
Officials in Florida say there is currently a waitlist for social services in the state and they expect it to grow as the U.S. addiction crisis continues to spiral out of control.
The rate of babies born suffering from drug addiction is at a historic level, increasing five-fold across the U.S. between 2003 and 2012. The rise is associated with the current opioid epidemic, which killed an estimated 64,070 Americans this year. In Florida, roughly 14 people die every day from an opioid overdose.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.
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