The Wrenching Process of Weaning a Baby Off Heroin

The 'Washington Post' looks at one such baby
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2015 10:36 AM CDT
The Wrenching Process of Weaning a Baby Off Heroin
A newborn is shown.   (Rebecca S. Gratz/The World-Herald via AP)

It's a cruel start to life: Entering the world and then entering rehab. It's a reality more newborns are facing, reports the Washington Post, which cites figures like this one: The percentage of NICU admissions for "neonatal abstinence syndrome" has increased fourfold over a span of nine years, to 2.7%. Its article follows last month's report from the CDC that found the number of Americans who use heroin has grown by nearly 300,000 over a decade, with the rate of heroin use doubling in women—a more dramatic rise than men experienced. The Post recounts the story of Ashley Kennedy, a 31-year-old who has battled heroin addiction for 11 years and, while pregnant with daughter Makenzee, was "injecting 30 five-dollar bags of heroin a day."

Threats from a judge led her to switch to methadone for her pregnancy's final days (going cold turkey wasn't an option; it could have killed the baby). Where that left Makenzee, born two months ago: at a Baltimore hospital where she was fed small amounts of morphine and the blood-pressure medicine clonidine, which helps babies withdrawing from drugs. Every baby's experience is different and not, it turns out, tied to how much heroin a mother used, or for how long. Makenzee's was rough: sleep wouldn't come; she suffered from "acidic diarrhea," and she cried and cried. Nurses did what they could do soothe her, with the main goal being preventing a potentially life-altering seizure. Head to the Post for more on Makenzee, whose treatment cost Medicaid $32,777. (More heroin stories.)

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