Ohio Begins Program To Help Babies Born Addicted To Heroin

pregnant womanSadly, babies are born addicted to heroin. A mother, who was addicted when she got pregnant, and who was unable to stop using while carrying her baby, passes on her drug addiction to her innocent child.

The state of Ohio is launching a program that is estimated to help somewhere around 200 mothers and their babies. Ohio Governor John Kasick announced the $4.2 million, three-year pilot, program aimed at addressing the growing problem.

The Growing Problem

Access to prescription painkillers is leading people to heroin use. Addiction to each drug, all falling under the drug class opiates and opioids, is rising while availability of appropriate treatment is not. A woman can be experiencing actual physical pain and can subsequently receive a proper physician’s prescription for a painkiller. She may then continue to use the drug, not realizing that her physical pain has diminished and she no longer needs the medication, because the drug has made her feel no pain at all. The lack of emotional pain can keep someone using opiates and opioids past the point of medical necessity.

When her doctor will no longer prescribe an opioid, like Vicodin, Opana, Percocet, Norco, or OxyContin, the woman starts experiencing painful withdrawal symptoms and needs a solution. She quickly learns that heroin is a direct substitute for the prescription pills she has been taking, so she finds the drug and pays a small fee to get her fix.

A Heroin Lifestyle

People addicted to heroin do not participate in much self-care. The dangerous sexual behaviors and spread of diseases like Hepatitis and HIV, make the whole picture pretty scary. When a female heroin addict gets pregnant, she may not know for a while. She is not in touch with her body, so the baby is starting off at risk.

Heroin addicted babies experience their own drug withdrawal when born, called neonatal abstinence syndrome. The symptoms include respiratory complications, difficulty eating, possible seizures, low birth weight, nausea, and dehydration, which can all be life-threatening for this new life.

Ohio’s Attempt at Treating Heroin Addicted Mothers and Their Babies

The cost of treating neonatal abstinence syndrome, in Ohio alone, was over $70 million in 2011, as reported by the Ohio Hospital Association. To counteract that high cost, Ohio’s program hopes to offer expectant mothers, who are addicted to opiates, ongoing counseling and medication assistance. Tools are taught that ideally give women ways to avoid relapse while pregnant and after the baby is born. Women will also be given housing vouchers, and transportation and childcare services for follow-up doctor’s appointments and addiction treatment. The program will save the state close to $2 million each year, so it is a great start.

Ohio is working on choosing sites for the program. Substance abuse treatment centers, mental health facilities, and hospitals are able to apply to participate in the program, and the state will decide on a few that will host the program initially. Mothers and babies will start receiving care at the beginning of 2014.

Ohio’s Other Efforts at the Growing Opiate Problem

The state has also been cracking down on the administration of prescription painkillers. Guidelines for emergency rooms and private practice physicians have been revamped to better inform medical and mental health personnel of what opiates and opioids are really doing to their users. The guidelines are one step toward the education of those administering the drugs that quickly lead to addiction and heroin use.

Our nation’s drug problem needs prevention, education, intervention, and treatment. Those suffering from drug addiction, and alcoholism, are passing it onto the next generation in too many damaging ways.

Ohio is leading the way with its program to help babies born addicted to heroin.

photo credit: holding graz

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