The tragedy of neonatal abstinence is all around us.
This video was forwarded to me by one of our operations efficiency engineers who works with the physicians and nurses in our neonatal intensive care unit. Our approach to the treatment of these fragile babies is slightly different, as we attempt to get the infants and moms together, preferably at home after their initial stabilization. Nonetheless, the description of the suffering these babies go through is very clear.
Withdrawal is painful.
Whether moms are addicted to prescription drugs or to illegal drugs, the baby has the same problem,and it will take weeks to months for it to abate enough to be free of medication completely. Dr. Joan Fisher, a hematolgist/oncologist with Carilion Clinic Children's Hospital and certified in palliative medicine was interviewed by the Roanoke Times in early March about the program she has developed to serve the Roanoke Valley. By using methadone instead of morphine, the infants can go home on twice a day doses of drugs, instead of morphine, which must be administered at least every 4-6 hours, which is difficult to accomplish at home. If you watch the video and read the Roanoke Times story, you will understand better the plight of these smallest victims of drug addiction. As the video points out, prescription pain killers are being used by an increasing number of people, including women of childbearing age. Although Knoxville may have the highest incidence in the country, we are certainly seeing an increase in our area. This is not something that can be addressed by pediatricians or even obstetricians. This problem has to be addressed by physicians everywhere who treat pain primarily by covering it up with narcotics, rather than getting to the cause of the pain and treating that.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this problem, and your ideas about how our society can turn this trend around.