JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs is on the rise, according to the CDC.
Statistics from 2008 show the number of women taking several medications during the first trimester of pregnancy has increased by 60 percent in the past three decades.
Intensive care physician Dr. Douglas Seglem is the new director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unite at St. Bernard's Healthcare Center. He said he is new to Jonesboro, but no stranger to the growing epidemic of babies being born addicted to prescription drugs.
"I myself have taken care of as many as four babies at the same time in the NICU setting in one of my previous positions."
Dr. Seglem's job of taking care of sick or premature newborns includes helping days old infants kick a habit they didn't start. "I am seeing more and more babies being born to mothers who are abusing prescription drugs, and these babies come out with symptoms of addiction at the time of birth or within the first few days after birth."
If a newborn displays symptoms of addiction, Dr. Seglem said doctors will run urine and stool tests to confirm it. He said one of the primary symptoms is irritability. "In addition to being very irritable, part of their irritability is that they also will scratch themselves, or they will move around so much on the beds that they'll get scratches over their bony prominences like elbows and knees heels and fingers."
The three to six weeks weaning process for newborns is similar to some adult programs. "You have to give them a little bit of opiate to cover their symptoms, and gradually wean them off of the opiate."
Charles "Skip" Mooney is the founder Out of the Dark, a local organization committed to tackling what he says is a huge problem in Region 8. "We'll have 100 to150 people show up for those meetings and we'll talk about local issues and clearly one of the local issues that we have are how many are having children that are addicted to drugs."
Mooney said many people don't realize that even prescribed medication can destroy lives. "We've had a lot of young people that have grown into adulthood with chemical addiction. They're going to have children."
Dr. Seglem wants to remind women who are pregnant that all drugs, whether illegal or prescription, can pass through the placenta.
"Anything that the mother takes in can get over to the baby's circulation."
Dr. Seglem also advises pregnant women who are addicted to prescription medication to get treatment for addiction instead of trying to quit cold turkey because fetuses can experience the same withdrawal symptoms as the women who are pregnant.