Protecting Drug Dependent Babies

NASNeonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs when a mother uses opioid narcotics during the course of her pregnancy. After birth, some babies will experience withdrawal symptoms which require medical attention. NAS is a byproduct of elevated opioid addiction rates, one that introduces newborns to substance dependency from the start of life. In the wake of the opioid epidemic in the United States, neonatal intensive care units have been overburdened on a number of different levels.

Naturally, NAS requires more than just treatment; mothers who struggle with opioid addiction need assistance as well, in order to ensure the safety of the children upon going home. Reuters looked into the matter; the investigation found that 110 babies whose mothers used opioid narcotics during their pregnancy – died from preventable causes at home. The investigation, while troubling, led to action among lawmakers on the national level. The legislation will provide assistance to opioid dependent mothers, and require both federal and state governments to monitor, better than they have in the past, the health and safety of babies born drug-dependent.

Protecting Our Drug Dependent Infants

Last week, a bill went to the Senate floor which prompted the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to pledge reforms, Reuters reports. This week, a similar bill was introduced in the House that would require states to report the number of babies determined to have been born drug-dependent. The states would also have to report the number of infants who have had safe care plans developed.

“We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” said Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania in a statement. “It is a sad reality in this country that a baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes. We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”

A Failure to Report

In 2003, a law was passed that required hospitals throughout the country to alert state social services when a baby was born dependent on drugs, according to the article. The Reuters report found that only 9 states actually comply with the 2003 law, putting newborn babies at severe risk.

Going forward and in a perfect world, the expectant mother would be able to begin her addiction recovery well before the baby is born. While adult intervention is not appropriate in every situation, it may be the only way to prevent fallout from severe addiction. In some cases, intervention may even be a life-saving solution for loved ones that deny the presence of addiction or the need for rehabilitation. If you have questions about intervention and recovery, please contact us.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA)

addictionAddiction treatment and prevention are crucial if we are ever to get a handle on the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic in the United States. As presidential candidates criss-cross the country, addiction is a major talking point – especially in some of the most rural areas. Everyone is interested in learning how the potential leaders will tackle the problem, a crisis that is stealing 78 lives every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On top of an interagency effort to curb overprescribing, expand access to the life saving drug naloxone and create more substance use disorder treatment facilities Senators have been working to pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

A Fighting Chance

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), if passed, the bill authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to address the national epidemics of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use. After concerns that there would not be enough funding for the bill to be effective, an amendment to the bill was put forward for an additional $600 million in funding. On Wednesday, the amendment failed to receive the 60 votes needed to approve the additional funds, The Washington Post reports. Despite the amendment being voted down, Senate Democrats said they will not block the legislation over funding.

“There certainly is no desire to take the bill down over that through the caucus at large,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an author of legislation. “If somebody’s so mad about that that they just can’t bring themselves to vote for it, that will be their personal decision.”

The Big Picture

The democratic Senators choice to not block the bill because of the vote on Wednesday is indicative of how much attention the crisis deserves. While the amendment had the support of Senators from both sides of the aisle, there are a number of republicans who feel that the bill had enough funding to adequately address the opioid epidemic, according to the article. One could argue that some lawmakers do not fully grasp the true scope of the problem.

“It just seems ill-advised, to say the least, to appropriate more money when in fact there’s already $571 million available to deal with this epidemic,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas).

This is a story we will continue to follow.

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