Newborn Babies – Some of Our Youngest Addicts

newborn baby

These are children who never reached out for a joint, a needle or a crack pipe. Their drugs came from a different source – their mothers’ blood, carried through the placenta and umbilical cord to the tiny, growing body.

But still, these are children who must go through similar withdrawal symptoms to their mothers. They are often inconsolable, crying endlessly. They may suffer seizures and cramps and kick their arms and legs in pain. When the mothers’ drug was an opiate, the babies may be weaned off the drugs in their bodies by being given tiny doses of methadone or morphine. The dose is gradually reduced until they are clean but it still is an uncomfortable process.

There’s a long list of developmental delays, learning disabilities, personality problems and health problems that can befall these children once they have made it through the newborn stage.

These kids never asked for it. So I was happy to see that West Virginia drug courts are being effective in getting moms off drugs so that newborns are being born healthy and drug-free.

Since the beginning of 2011, the Times West Virginia reports, 70 drug-free babies have been born to women who were part of the drug court system. Ten of these babies were born to underage mothers.

This means these children had a much better chance at developing normally and for being born without the birth defects that can result from the use of illicit drugs or abuse of prescription drugs or alcohol.

Of course, the most vital benefit is to our babies and their families. But from a community standpoint, compare the cost to the city, state or federal government for an extended stay in a hospital after birth, perhaps for multiple surgeries and extensive therapy to help the child walk, talk or learn. The cost of a drug court is very small in comparison.

One mother writing on an online forum for adoptive parents noted the kinds of problems her adopted baby had and the therapy she needed after being exposed to methamphetamine in the womb: physical therapy, speech therapy, eye surgery; she is hypothyroid, has mild cerebral palsy and may have sensory issues. The mother wrote with great love about the child’s sweetness and her pride in her child’s ability to “light up a room.”

The moral of the tale is that great care should be taken with any female of childbearing age. Female addicts may not tend to birth control any better than other areas of their lives and can get pregnant at any time. If you care for a woman of childbearing age, this is yet another reason to help her find rehab at the first moment possible. Because you could be saving two lives, not just one.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.