Neonatal Babies and Drug Addiction

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Famous Hip-Hop artist and Disc Jockey, Louis Eric Barrier, sheds light on a topic that is haunting for America: drug addicted neonates. You know we are lost when babies are addicted to drugs when they are born, said Barrier. An increasingly dangerous epidemic that is dismissed or silenced by many concerns America’s growing dependence on and increased death rates from heroin and other deadly drugs. While it is sad that many people are falling to drug addiction, it’s even more heartbreaking that many of these addictions are neonates, who have just entered the world. Unfortunately tens of thousands of babies are born with an addiction; it is up to the people of the world to educate themselves on the inimical effects on the quality life at birth and into the rest of their lives for substance addicted neonates.

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There have been alarming rises in the numbers of babies born with a drug addiction in the US in the past six years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there has been a five fold increase in babies born with an addiction between the years 2000 and 2012, and increasing even more into today. With the amount of noted neonates born with an addiction, this statistic would prove to be one baby born with an addiction about every 25-30 minutes in the United States alone. Any drug addiction is very harmful to fully matured bodies, but even more harmful to the smaller, underdeveloped organs caused by substance dependence. The drugs most neonates are addicted to when born are strong opioids like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Heroin. In an online documentary, one nurse said There are cases in which the mother admits she just shot up in the parking lot before delivering.

Addiction is a very hard disease to cope with. The part of the brain that tells you to speak, walk, and perform other natural actions is also the part of the brain that addiction is found in. Once addicted, it is very hard to counteract. Genes make up who we are. Sometimes, and unfortunately, our genes mutate. These mutations are likely to create a hereditary disease like Cystic Fibrosis, or Huntington’s disease. Studies are now showing that mutations in genes can mutate, and addiction can become hereditary. So, if a baby is born with an addiction, that can lead to them being addicted later on in life.

Substance addicted babies face an extremely long road to recovery. Not only do they face a long physical recovery, but an emotional one as well. Thousands of babies have been abandoned in their hospital cribs by their parents unwilling or unable to take them home according to a draft report from the Department of Health and Human Services. They’re the tiniest victims of crack cocaine, poverty, homelessness, and AIDS The first person a baby grows to love is the woman who is carrying them, or in this case, the woman who is killing them. Babies want their biological parents when they are born, and often are unable to get this kind of love. The love many substance addicted neonates receive is from are nurses, doctors, and hospital volunteers.

Once they are out of the care of the hospital, what happens to them is mostly unknown. However, whilst in the care of the hospital, they are paid attention to, loved, and helped. Consumption of drugs and alcohol during pregnancy could result in a number of health issues. Some of these issues will be: low birth weight, premature labor, fetal death, and or miscarriage (Tatera). Newborns born addicted will almost always suffer symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). These symptoms can include: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, jitteriness, and many more. Nick Martin of Sky News stated, The cries are a high pitched one and no consoling seems to help the baby milk and methadone go hand and hand. Many NAS babies will have a hospital stay about three times longer than other babies.

Sadly, the first few weeks to months is only the beginning to a very long uphill battle. Once they move toward toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, a lot of behavioral and cognitive issues can resurface. While the neurological abnormalities may regulate, behavioral issues will become prominent in late adolescence, and early adulthood. Prenatal exposure to such a harmful drug can result in increased risk of seizures, depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, and Parkinson’s disease. Heroin is one of the most deadly drugs, and is a huge epidemic right now. Sadly, a small percentage of heroin addicted babies end up living with their biological mother after five years. Neonates born with a heroin addiction are more likely to experience low birth weight, small head circumference, poor spatial recognition, poor memory, ADHD, and lower IQs. The quality of life for these babies are not only poor at birth, but also later in life.

In the Sky News Documentary, a woman, who chose to have her identity unknown, is shown holding her hour old baby who has been born with an addiction to prescription painkillers. She sits rocking her very fussy, confused baby. In the video, she cries and explains the immense amount of guilt she feels. According to Nick Martin, head of the documentary, many mothers feel this way once they hold their baby. It is unfortunate, in most cases, that they begin to feel the guilt only after their baby is in the world and already facing withdrawals. In the documentary, it is also explained that many women become substance dependent again once they leave the hospital. This is a reality for many babies who are born into a family in which biological parents have an addiction; whether it be to narcotics, opioids, or alcohol.
While many do not agree with the course of actions many of these mothers are taking, very little is being done to put an end to this issue. The Supreme Court has intervened in a case for the politics of fetal rights.

An issue in Ferguson v. City of Charleston is whether a public hospital violated the Constitution when it tests pregnant women for drug use and turns over positive results to the police without so much as obtaining a search warrant. In this particular case, many are concerned that this violates the Constitutional Rights of women. However, many forget that babies who are born with a drug addiction are forfeiting their Constitutional Rights because they are forced into something that they have zero control over. The babies will face a long life of medical, physical, cognitive, and behavioral issues. Turning a positive drug test result over to the police without the mother’s consent does not forfeit Constitutional Rights, as a matter of fact, many people believe this is an appropriate route to take.

Like previously stated, in the Sky News Documentary, a nurse states that many women admit I just shot up heroin before coming in to deliver. Another fear in this case is that women will not seek proper medical care if they are forced to take a drug test and positive results are turned over to the police. This fear however, is ludacris. Addiction is a disease that stems from a part of the brain that tells a person to perform daily activities, so it is hard to stop without help. Asking for help before it is too late is very possible though.

Child abuse is defined as the physical maltreatment, or sexual molestation of a child. Knowingly addicting a baby to drugs is a form of physical maltreatment, but women are almost never convicted for anything after delivering a baby addicted to drugs. Tennessee is currently the only state with prenatal substance abuse in the law as a criminal act of child abuse and neglect. A good addition Tennessee has on top of this law is giving an option to women to either get state mandated rehab help, or serving jail time.

While it is better for newborns and biological mothers to stick together, it is unfortunate that some would rather choose jail time. However, whether it be jail time or state mandated rehab, both give the mother time to get clean to return to her child. On top of Tennessee’s law, many other states have put an addition to their civil child welfare program that forces mothers to give up all parental rights when they deliver a substance addicted baby, because it is considered child abuse.


The topic of substance addicted babies is a tough pill to swallow. It is hard to believe that a person could hurt a precious miracle God given. Many women however fall into the pool of addiction like many others. Unfortunately, many women become pregnant as a means to receive drugs, which results in them using during the pregnancy and not really wanting the baby they are carrying. Just because some people are willing to care for a child, it doesn’t mean that others are. Babies born addicted fall into a life of neglect unwillingly. It is in America’s best interest to continue putting up acts against mothers prenatally doing drugs to try and end this epidemic. Until then, it is up to people to stand up for these babies and try and change the laws to get justice for these tiny human beings.

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Neonatal Babies And Drug Addiction. (2019, Mar 22). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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