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Growing Number Of Babies Born Addicted To Opioids

Valencia Shepherd (shown here at 3 months) is now 6 months old — healthy and ...

Photo by Sarah Jane Tribble/WCPN

Above: Valencia Shepherd (shown here at 3 months) is now 6 months old — healthy and safely weaned from opioids. Her mom has been clean of the drugs for nine months.

The epidemic of opioid abuse has caused a lot of casualties.

Add a growing number of newborn babies to the list.

According to recent National Drug Surveys on Drug Use and Health, an annual average of about 21,000 pregnant women aged 15 to 44 misused opioids in the past month.

Federal health officials say there's been a corresponding increase in the number of newborns born suffering from opioid withdrawal.

The condition is called called neonatal abstinence syndrome.

It is a group of problems that newborns experience after being exposed to opioids in the womb.

Symptoms can include fever, vomiting and seizures. They can emerge as early as 24 hours after birth.

UC San Diego pediatrician Michelle Leff said affected babies are born addicted to opioids.

“And if their symptoms are severe enough, we give them lower doses of opioids and slowly decrease that over time, to help with the symptom management, and wean them off, slowly," she said.

The long-term effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome are unknown.

There were 3,360 babies were born in 2015 with this condition in California.

The epidemic of opioid abuse is affecting an increasing number of defenseless victims: newborn babies.

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