Increasing Rates of Drug-Addicted Babies Being Born in Massachusetts

First Posted: Jun 19, 2014 10:10 PM EDT

It's been known the New England area has a heroin/opioid issue amongst its population, but it's now becoming a big problem for subsequent generations. Massachusetts is experiencing an alarming rate of babies being born with opiates in their system.

In recent months Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, Maine Governor Paul LePage, and Massachusetts Deval Patrick addressed each of their state's growing heroin and opioid problem. Governor Patrick even took it as far as declaring a state of emergency on the issue. The percentage of deaths, people admitted into addiction facilities, and babies being born to drug addicted mothers all have dramatically increased in these states.

In Maine the number of birthed babies affected by drugs increased from 160 in 2005 to over 900 last year, approximately 7% of births in the state. In Vermont, the state health department has reported a tenfold increase in the number of babies treated for opiate withdrawal syndrome since 2002. And on Thursday, the Boston Globe reported that drug-addicted babies born in Massachusetts are triple the national rate. Previous estimates were much lower.

Governor Patrick has called for increased funding for narcotics units in Massachusetts police departments, the availability of naloxone (a heroin overdose reversal drug) for law enforcers to have on hand, and more effective (as well as more funding) for addiction treatment facilities/programs for opioid and heroin abusers. The latest news is likely to put more pressure on politicians and state departments to allocate funding for the governor's requests.

But now the imminent issue is treating these babies who are suffering from opiate withdrawals.

"Right now we have a patchwork of data collection, and trying to assess the best way to treat these babies is difficult," said Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark, in this Boston Globe article. "Some states are doing a lot. Some are doing nothing."

The suffering infants must remain in the hospital for an average of 19 days as doctors administer varying doses of morphine and continue to assess their withdrawal symptoms.

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