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Florida Officials Want to Protect Babies of Women Addicted to Prescription Drugs


Florida officials met with health care executives last week to discuss how to protect babies born to women addicted to prescription drugs. An estimated 1,300 babies were treated for drug withdrawal in Florida in 2010, a 30 percent jump from the previous year.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said that many pregnant women do not realize the dangers that drugs such as oxycodone and Xanax pose to their unborn babies, The Miami Herald reports. She and Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos met with officials from BayCare Health System to discuss the issue and possible solutions.

Bondi said she would work with St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital in Tampa to start a national task force designed to educate women about the dangers of prescription drugs. The article notes that prescription drugs can cause symptoms in babies including stiff limbs, tremors, vomiting and diarrhea. Babies born addicted to prescription drugs can spend up to 30 days in a neonatal intensive care unit getting weaned off the drug.

According to the article, some women addicted to prescription drugs are treated with methadone during pregnancy to reduce or eliminate craving for other drugs.

9 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Maria Sharapova
    Maria Sharapova / May 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Prescription drug addiction such as the Psychological- and/or Chemical Dependence on pharmaceuticals has become an increasingly escalating problem among people within all classes of society. According to statistics that were recently published on the internet, we may conclude that prescription drug addiction is increasingly exceeding other known addictions such as the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and the frequent abuse of illegal class I controlled substances.

  2. Sandra Streifel / May 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Many of the attributes of “drug babies” of various kinds casually reported over the last few decades have also been common to babies born to mothers in extreme poverty and who had poor to no prenatal care. As a women’s advocate, mom, and recovering alcoholic, I can heartily agree with Dr. Gazaway that when the system talks about protecting babies, nothing good will result for families, or for the baby. Another good reason to encourage breastfeeding, too!

  3. Chris Kelly / May 20, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Great comments, all!! Like Dr. Coulter posted, alcohol and tobacco are much bigger problems. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is easily managed, and every expectant mother who is has an opiate use problem should be prescribed methadone or buprenorphine. This is not rocket science, this has been going on since humans first walked the earth. Breastfeeding provides a “natural weaning process”.

  4. Avatar of John Mark Blowen
    John Mark Blowen / May 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    We need to be careful with our language. it has power.
    Babies cannot be born “addicted”; addiction involves a pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that develops over time and can be modified over time in treatment.
    Babies can be born “dependent” – which refers to the autonomic dysregulation that occurs when a substance is withdrawn from one whose homeostasis ‘depends’ on it.
    The distinction is important when we think about the possiblities that medication assisted treatment offers.

  5. Avatar of eve m ruff
    eve m ruff / May 17, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Please advise how to contact the group initiating a national task force. we would like to be involved.
    eve m ruff, ms cdp
    swedish hospital
    seattle, wa

  6. Avatar of Preston Gazaway, MD
    Preston Gazaway, MD / May 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I am leery anytime the government wants to protect babies. That protection frequently means making the mother a criminal, e.g South Carolina.
    The illicit use of prescription medication is rampant. Maybe worse than tobacco and alcohol in some areas. The best pregnancy outcomes occur when women are enrolled in some form of drug treatment that stabilizes the intrauterine environment and provides psychosocial support to the mom to be. Methadone has been used for about 50 years but recently buprenorphine has shown promise as medically assisted treatment modality.

  7. Avatar of ann livingston
    ann livingston / May 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    The withdawal management for infants works best if the babies are breastfed by the mother who are ingesting methadone or opiods. As the babies gain weight they wean from the opiate and the amount of drug per body weight of the babe is reduced naturally. Even if the mother will not put the baby to her breast the weaniong can be accomplished with pumped breast milk fed to the baby with a bottle. The Scottish experience with infant withdrawal from opiates is very successful (or was) because breast feeding was promoted. I have lived with a mom and babe who was born on methadone and the tapering was symptomless with breat milk fed via bottle.
    Ann Livingston
    community organizer

  8. Avatar of Steve Coulter, MD
    Steve Coulter, MD / May 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Florida’s focus seems ill-conceived. Certainly, pregnant women shouldn’t be consuming any medications or other drugs that aren’t clearly needed. But addictive prescription drugs are generally not the problem.

    Among the addictive substances most toxic to a fetus are alcohol and tobacco. These are well-known to cause severe birth defects, low birth weight, and persistent problems in lung and neuro-behavioral function.

    In contrast, opiates and stimulants generally are not associated with such severe problems as those caused by alcohol and tobacco.

    In fact, opiate-addicted pregnant women are commonly put on methadone for the duration of their pregnancies, primarily to avoid the complications of illicit opiate abuse, not because chronic stimulation of opiate receptors in the fetus is itself seriously problematic.

    Most of the attention and money directed at prescription misuse among pregnant women would be far better spent addressing alcohol and tobacco use by pregnant women.

  9. Brinna Nanda / May 18, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Brilliant take. Excellent advice. Now, if only their were more folks like you, with actual heads on their shoulders.

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