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Proposed Group in Florida to Reduce Newborn Opioid Dependence Cases

Patricia Williams By Patricia Williams, PhD on December 17, 2012
Dependence on opioids

Florida has recently stepped up and proposed a task force that will include doctors, legislators and public health advocates that will come together to provide recommendations on ways to reduce the number of newborn opioid cases.

Florida is an epicenter of prescription drug abuse and one of the leading states in the epidemic of opioid use that has swept the nation in the past 10 years. Every single day, thousands of doses of oxycodone, oxycontin and other powerful narcotics are dispensed in pain clinics known widely throughout the state as “pill mills.” Although it may be the addicts who are the true face of the prescription drug crisis, some say that it’s the doctors who provide these medications and allow them to make their way to the streets who are the real problem.

Regardless of which came first, the chicken or the egg, the addiction or the pill mill, one thing is certain—thousands of new cases of opioid dependent babies are being born to drug addicted parents every year resulting a a wealth of complications that health advocates in Florida are now taking a leading role in to prevent. The task force, which was formed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, will have the role of defining the severity of newborn opioid addiction and in devising solutions to prevent future cases from occurring.

There are recommendations to include a $22 million expansion of residential treatment and substance abuse intervention that will allow mothers to keep their newborn with them in treatment if she seeks help. There are also recommendations for education campaigns that will inform to-be mothers about the dangers of prescription drug use during pregnancy as well as educational campaigns that will inform medical professionals of better ways to recognize drug addiction and prevention.

The state is seeking additional resources to help the newborns who are born already exposed to opioids. The legislation proposed by the task force will protect women who seek treatment, barring child welfare services from taking a baby away if the woman seeks treatment for a prescription drug addiction.

In a single county alone during 2010, 113 babies were born with neonatal withdrawal syndrome. There were only 13 available treatment beds for mothers and their babies in that county at that time which left 100 babies in a poor predicament. The babies that are born in this condition suffer from shaking, skin irritation, vomiting, diarrhea and other withdrawal symptoms that require special treatment.

Although a task force may not be the only answer, it is a start in the right direction. Helping to reduce the number of opioid dependent newborns and providing effective treatment for the mothers who are addicted to prescription drugs can reduce the economic impact that such births have on Florida’s society as a whole.

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