Levi was lifted out of his mother’s belly at 10:44 on a May morning, tiny and crying and addicted to opioids. For the past month, he has been lying in a bassinet in a Hamilton hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. Nurses feed him droplets of morphine and closely monitor him for fever, tremors, rashes and sweat gathering on his neck and brow. By now, they are used to his frenetic, high-pitched cries, an unrelenting and inconsolable wail that indicates a baby going through withdrawal. Nearby, four other newborns — a shocking one-quarter of the nursery’s occupants — are also coming off the narcotic drugs their mothers took while pregnant. It is both a distressing and a familiar sight here at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and in neonatal intensive care units across the province. In the past five years, there has been a staggering increase in the number of babies born dependent on prescription painkillers. The incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS — in which a baby is born addicted — has skyrocketed alongside the epidemic use of legitimate and illicit opioids, particularly drugs that contain oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin and its replacement, OxyNeo. In 2003-04, Ontario tracked 171 babies born with NAS. In 2010-11, there were 654 — nearly a fourfold increase. Experts say that with Ontario having the highest narcotic use in Canada and among the highest in the world, the tide of addicted babies is in no way abating (via Toronto News: Ontario’s surge in babies born addicted to opioids - thestar.com)
jeez.. I live in this province & had no idea..
- many women who become addicted to opioids start off with a legitimate prescription for the painkillers, perhaps for chronic pain or injuries suffered in a car accident. The highly addictive nature of the drugs means pain control can quickly turn to dependence.
- The fear of withdrawal or being “dope sick” also kept her away from treatment. “It’s like having the flu times 20,” she says. “The pain in your bones is the worst … the pain in your legs is so bad you want to cut them off. You are sick to your stomach, you can’t eat, you sweat … every bad feeling you can possibly imagine you have from opioid withdrawal.”
- Doctors know how to treat babies going through opioid withdrawal with morphine and other drugs. In some mild cases, swaddling and cuddling babies and keeping them in quiet, darkened rooms is enough to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, says Knoppert of the London Health Sciences Centre. Unrecognized, NAS can be cause life-threatening episodes, such as seizures.