Infants Are The Real Victims Of The Opioid Epidemic


The opioid epidemic we are facing as a state and as a country will not be going away anytime soon. If you weren’t aware, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a statewide heroin and opioid epidemic disaster declaration to aid ongoing efforts to save the lives of the affected. It’s the first declaration of its kind, but that’s not the story here.

In a recent article from the Times Leader, a terrifying issue was brought to light – infant drug addiction. This type of addiction is known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), and it’s caused when an opioid-addicted mother passes on their addiction to their newborn; usually in the form of strong withdrawal symptoms. According to the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, “withdrawal signs develop because these newborns are no longer exposed to the drug for which they have become physically dependent.”

For every one thousand children born, an average of fifteen newborns was treated for NAS across the state in 2017. According to the article, this problem is worse locally than compared to Pennsylvania as a whole. For every one thousand children born in Luzerne County, 16.7 were treated for NAS. It gets worse in Lackawanna County as the number increases to 27.2. Here is a stat to make you think – every 19 minutes, an opioid-addicted baby is born in the United States.

Symptoms Of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

These newborns develop a dependence on a certain drug or opioid while still in their mother’s womb. When they are first born, they are cut off from the umbilical cord and placenta which pumps the drug into their system. Because they are cut off, symptoms of withdrawal begin to occur. These symptoms include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Convulsions
  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • High-pitched crying
  • Lack of sleep
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

All it takes is twenty-four hours for these symptoms to start occurring in a newborn. The severity of them will differ based on the drug or opioid used, along with the newborn being premature or full-term. The symptoms of withdrawal should dissipate after about a week if treated properly. However, there can be long-term health, psychological, and emotional effects.

As the opioid epidemic grows across the area, state, and country, lawmakers are left in controversy. It comes down to how the issue is viewed; either as an act of endangering the safety and life of an unborn child or not acting at all. That is why Governor Wolf issued the declaration that was mentioned earlier in the article.

Governor Wolf is “taking this step to protect Pennsylvanians from this looming public health crisis, and [he is] using every tool at [his] disposal to get those suffering from substance use disorders into treatment, save more lives, and improve.”

Drug addiction is not a newborn’s fault.

Contact Fellerman & Ciarimboli

Is your newborn niece or nephew the victim of NAS? Has your spouse hidden her drug addiction from you until it was too late for your newborn son or daughter? Fellerman & Ciarimboli are experienced in various aspects of the law including personal injury and wrongful death. Contact our Firm today for a consultation.

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