The number of newborns hospitalized for drug addiction passed on from their mothers has soared in Kentucky over the last decade.
Many of the tiny babies are victims of the prescription pill epidemic in Kentucky, where hospitalizations for addicted newborns climbed from 29 in 2000 to 730 last year.
The rate has increased to the point that on one day in August at the University of Louisville’s neonatal intensive care unit, more than half the babies were suffering from drug withdrawal, The Courier-Journal of Louisville reported.
“It’s a silent epidemic that’s going on out there,” said Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “You need to say: ‘Stop the madness. This is too much.’”
State officials and doctors say the hospitalization statistics include newborn withdrawals from all types of drugs, but they blame prescription pills for the dramatic increase.
Melissa Lueloff, 28, of Louisville, who gave birth to an addicted girl two years ago, said her cravings for OxyContin, Opana and cocaine ruled her life.
“I just couldn’t stop,” she said.
Her daughter Neveah was born a month premature and spent five days in a neonatal intensive care unit struggling with withdrawal, constantly clenching her tiny fists and whining in pain.
Nurse Tonya Anderson, an infant development/ touch therapist for neonatal nurseries at Kosair Children’s Hospital, said there are times when there are more than a dozen babies suffering from withdrawal in the special-care nursery where she works.
“They are just agitated. They are screaming. They have tremors. Their faces — you have the grimace. They’re in pain. . Sometimes, the babies have seizures,” she said. “We hate it. It breaks my heart to see these babies go through withdrawal.”
According to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the rate of newborns suffering withdrawal in the United States rose from 1.2 hospitalizations per 1,000 hospital births in 2000 to 3.4 per 1,000 in 2009.
“We knew that it was common, but we would not expect this problem would have tripled in the last decade,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and one of the study’s authors.