It's on the rise across the nation.

Born addicted, it might be hard to swallow but hospitals are seeing it on a regular basis. It is so common the have given it a clinical name.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a medical diagnose for a newborn who’s born drug dependent. In other words, that newborn was exposed to multiple drugs while the fetus was developing, says William Liu, a neonatologist with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

“They get carried a lot, they get held a lot. We never let a baby cry. And despite the fact that they’re on their medication to wean, they still cry and they still suffer very much, the symptoms of their withdrawal,” says Michelle Waddell, NICU Director with The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

“If we believe the mother has a significant exposure to opioids, for example she’s a heroin addict or she is using drugs illicitly or she has a clear history of medical use of opioids during the entire pregnancy, then that newborn will be observed for a one week period in the hospital,” says Dr. Liu.

Babies determined to have NAS are scored and treated accordingly.

“Which at first is non-pharmacological treatment. Keep the baby comfortable, keep the environment subdued, low lighting, low noise levels. If the baby continues to show signs of withdrawal we treat the baby with opioids,” says Dr. Liu.

The withdrawal process takes weeks to months; the education process is ongoing.

“If you are taking an addictive type of medication, especially an opiate, the oxycontins and oxycodone and those types of drugs. That will go to your baby without any question without any doubt. And they will be born addicted,” says Waddell.

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Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.


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