Rate of drug-dependent babies continues to increase in Kentucky

Five week old baby feet held in mothers hand.

Rate of drug-dependent babies continues to increase in Kentucky

From 2003 to 2012, the number of babies born with drug dependency increased drastically; in Kentucky, 15 of every 1,000 babies go through opioid withdrawal within hours of being born.

This issue is especially prevalent in rural areas. In Richmond, Kentucky, Jay’la Cy’anne Clay was born dependent on drugs. Within 24 hours of birth, she was going through severe opioid withdrawal—bodily convulsions and vomiting were just a small part of her symptoms. Babies going through serious opioid withdrawal generally cannot eat, sleep or settle down. They are frantic.

Jay’la’s 28-year-old mother, Jamie Clay, had been hooked on oxycodone for over ten years. After quitting her occasional cocaine usage during the first trimester, she entered a recovery program shortly after learning she was pregnant. She had stayed sober for six months, taking another opioid—buprenorphine—which eased her cravings for illicit drugs but put her baby at risk for withdrawal.

“I thought I was doing the right thing, then come to find out they take my baby away because I was on [buprenorphine],” said Ms. Clay. “It wasn’t fair… I’m torn up in my heart.”

After a few days of observation, Jay’la was taken to another hospital for treatment. Shortly afterward, Ms. Clay was informed that custody of her daughter would be granted to her parents, Jay’la’s grandparents. While she was able to visit her daughter six times during the 11-day stay at the hospital, child-protection laws required that she did not see her child unsupervised.

Researchers are encouraging hospitals to pursue a new strategy: keep babies with their mothers. “The mother is really the first line of treatment for the baby,” said Dr. Debra L. Bogen, pediatrics professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

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Read the full story at at NYTimes.com.

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