Prescription Drug Addictions Unintended Victims


“I’m not hurting anyone but myself”, is an argument that can often be heard echoing in the halls of recovery centers all across the nation, but as any professional who has been involved in recovery in any aspect will agree, this of course is not true, and is in fact a sign of denial.  Any addiction, including those to prescription drugs has unintended victims outside of the user him or herself. 

In an article that appeared in, reporter Jillian Jorgensen of the Staten Island Advance explores one of these victims. Babies of addicts have the unfortunate and disheartening pre-birth condition of being born addicted to drugs due to no fault of their own. 

It is indeed a travesty that is worsening as addiction continues to rise not just among men, but also women. 

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The scourge of prescription painkiller abuse on Staten Island and across the county is leading to an increase in babies being born addicted to the drugs — and suffering the consequences of withdrawal.

Senator Chuck Schumer “This is a disgrace. It's wrong, and we need to put an end to it now,” U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) said at a press conference today. “Babies are the innocent victims of a national prescription drug abuse epidemic.” Image of Chuck Schumer was taken from

It's important for women who are pregnant to lead healthier lives, especially during the duration of the pregnancy.  It is indeed vital that she avoid anything that might be harmful to herself, because anything harmful to her is also harmful to the baby.  This includes things such as alcohol, cigarettes, and especially drugs. As Jorgensen's report points out, it's not just the abuse of illegal drugs that poses a threat, but also the legal prescription drugs, or rx drugs.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study last month that found approximately 3.4 of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. in 2009 suffered from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome — caused by an addiction to painkillers or other opiates their mothers took while pregnant.

“That means that one infant per hour is born addicted to drugs like these,” Schumer said. “One infant per hour.”

And on Staten Island, the figures are growing rapidly. 

While births have stayed steady — about 3,000 babies a year — at Staten Island University Hospital, the frequency of the disease there has jumped a whopping 500 percent since 2010, said Dr. Philip Roth, director of neonatology and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the hospital.

In 2010, 1.3 of every 1,000 babies born at the hospital had the syndrome; in 2011, it was 3.0. This year, the hospital is on track for eight cases per 1,000 births. In the past, most of the cases were babies born to mothers on methadone maintenance, but now half of them are born to mothers on prescription opiates, Roth said.

Our center has undeniably seen a consistent rise in the amount of people addicted to prescription drugs, especially opiates.  While the causes of this epidemic are quite numerous, one important aspect of the rise seems to be the cultural acceptance of using medication to solve every and all ailments a person has, or perceives himself / herself to have.

Schumer held the press conference today to call for a nationwide plan to address the problem. He proposed a three-point plan — first, he is calling on the Food and Drug Administration to do a better job informing patients of the danger of prescription drug use during pregnancy, and to provide clear labels on the drugs. He is also pushing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to educate doctors so they can better identify the symptoms of prescription drug abuse in pregnant mothers. Lastly, he's asking the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to do more research to prevent future mothers from becoming addicted to the drugs.

While it would seem common knowledge that prescription drugs pose a threat to babies still in the womb, we have seen and heard from reports, that many of these mothers are not informed of the dangers that RX drugs pose to their babies.  In this regard we are completely in support of Schumer's ideas of creating a more informed public.  Unfortunately, when these is a born, they are more inclined to continue the pattern that was set by their mothers.

“It's as if you're seeing someone who has been addicted to some kind of narcotic go through with withdrawal,” he said. “It's a very serious condition.”

In addition to taking a serious toll on babies and families, it also takes a toll on the entire healthcare system. Bailey said some estimates place the cost of the syndrome at $50,000 per hospital stay for each baby with the illness.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can cause irritability, tremors, hypertonicity, vomiting, and diarrhea. Drug exposure in utero has also been shown to reduce birth weight and head circumference in infants.  To read the rest of this article by Jillian Jorgensen, please click here

The next time you hear a person involved in active addiction attempt to rationalize their addiction by saying that they aren't hurting anyone but themselves, please know in your heart that they are in denial, and attempt to lovingly explain to them how there are always unintended victims in the selfish pursuits of addiction.  If you or a woman you know is in need of drug or alcohol treatment for women only, please visit 


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