The latest victims of painkiller addiction are suffering from the side effects of painkillers before their eyes are ever able to focus on the world around them. A recent study found that in 2009 “about 13,000 babies were diagnosed as having painkiller withdrawal symptoms,” a condition that is often referred to as “neonatal abstinence syndrome.” Further, it was found that “the number of babies born with the condition tripled between 2000 and 2009.” This growing prevalence of painkiller addiction among infants is indicative of a growing trend threatening the health and safety of the U.S. population. It has been estimated that overdoses associated with the effects of painkillers have quadrupled from 3,000 in 1999 to 12,000 in 2007.

Painkiller Addiction in Infants

The effects of painkiller addiction in newborns – which are largely withdrawal symptoms since the stream of opioids passed on from mother to child dries upon birth – are much the same as those found in adults. They include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Restlessness/sleeplessness
  • Shaking
  • Convulsions in the limbs
  • Muscle and bone aches

The primary differences, of course, are that infants are unable to communicate their discomfort and that the reality of the situation cannot be communicated to them. Their only instinct is to reach out by crying: a heart-wrenching plea that prompts helplessness in adults rivaled only by that of the child.

Neonatal Painkiller Addiction Treatment

Neonatal painkiller addiction treatment is most often undertaken through the administration of further drugs – such as morphine or methadone – in order to wean the child off of his or her addiction, without which the child may be subjected to seizures and even death. The need to even consider painkiller addiction treatment in this case speaks to cultural shifts toward the unabashed acceptance of prescribed opioids as a part of the American paradigm, which is troubling in its muting of something so dangerous.

Our advice? If you are pregnant, be judicious in your ingestion of painkillers. It may be better to suffer through a little bit of pain now in order to avoid the heartbreak of a child suffering from painkiller addiction later.