FORT MYERS, Fla. The number of drug-addicted newborns has surged in Lee County.
The county’s hospitals dealt with 100 such cases last year, more than twice the national average, according to data from Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. That’s a dramatic rise over the eight cases in 2008.
Addiction to prescription painkillers among parents is a main cause, said Melanie Black Amato, community liaison for the nonprofit Healthy Start Coalition of Southwest Florida.
“Opioids obviously can be prescribed legitimately through a physician, but what we’re finding is that a lot of individuals have become dependent on those opioids, many becoming pregnant during that time, not even realizing, or not even intentionally wanting to become pregnant.”
Babies born to drug-addicted parents are often premature. They have development issues and are prone to seizures and uncontrollable fits of crying.
It’s a trying experience for the system and for parents like Manekha Caron, a former heroin addict.
“Unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to understand what we go through,” Caron said.
Caron has been pregnant three times. Two of her children have gone through withdrawals.
“It’s OK to be scared,” she said. “I was scared, but I never gave up.”
Caron leaned on help from others to get through the experience. A new Healthy Start Coalition task force is available to assist parents of addicted newborns.