The smallest victims in the war on drugs. The ones who never chose the life they were born into. Babies born addicted.
“When mom takes substances, the baby is taking substances. Just like the mom is addicted, the baby is addicted. So when the baby is born, the baby can’t go onto the street or call a neighbor or go into grandma’s cabinet and grab a Lortab so that baby is confined to a crib and will go through withdraw and addiction,” said Dr. Coy Flowers.
The pain of addiction doesn’t discriminate. Dr. Flowers is a physician at the Greenbrier Physician’s Clinic, and said the everyday conversation of addicted infants is a new phenomenon.
“When I was a resident almost 20 years ago in Washington DC, it was rare for us to see someone addicted to heroin or a substance like that.”
The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources reported that is 2016, six percent of babies were born addicted in the state.
Dr. Coy Flowers is on the front lines fighting to save babies with mothers who are addicted.
He runs the drug free mother-baby program at the Greenbrier Physicians Clinic. He has an integrated program that helps mothers who are addicted to any substance get off the drugs and deliver healthy sober babies. He says there’s no easy way to get rid of an infant’s addiction.
“A lot of these babies experience a lot of colicky symptoms and their G.I. system is just messed up. They’re unable to function properly their nervous system is jacked up. They’re nervous, they’re anxious, they’re jittery, their fussy, they can’t sleep and these babies go through a lot of pain because of it.”
These babies have to put on low or high doses of narcotics to help the pain. The babies can stay up to 30 days in a hospital getting over the addiction.
Medical officials say because this is a new problem the long term effects are not known.
“We worry about the long-term effects. Will there be cognitive delays, will the IQ score be lower. Could this kid have 180 IQ but now only has 122, because of all the insult and injury.”
Dr. Flowers said he chose to integrate his program because there is still a stigma associated with those struggling with addiction.
“Even if that patient doesn’t have an addiction their self, we know 20% of patients do, then they know somebody in their family, or in their community, their next door neighbor or somebody at work that does. So we’ve sold this to our patients as this is something you can use to take to your home or workplace.”
Six percent is still too high, but he says it’s better than it was a couple years ago.
“One of the hardest parts we find in WV especially in small towns is you don’t have the community resources or the network of support out there for patients no matter what their problem is.
Pregnancy can mean a fresh start for any mother, but they need to reach out for help.