The number of Tennessee babies born chemically dependent on drugs is rising at a troubling rate. Nine months into 2013, the figure has already passed last year’s total. Many of the cases involve medications prescribed by a physician.
In some cases, the prescriptions replace illegal substances, but an increasing number of babies are also being born with a dependence on their mothers’ pain pills or medication used to treat psychiatric and neurological conditions. Whatever the substance, the infants suffer withdrawal. On average, their postnatal care costs 15 times more than a normal, healthy birth. And the effects-physical, psychological, and economic-can continue for years.
“We have to really worry about what happens to these children as they grow and as they develop and what are the things they’ll have to contend with and society will have to contend with if we don’t get our arms around this issue.”
Dr. John Dreyzehner is the Commissioner of Health. He’s calling for physicians reconsider how they determine when medication is truly necessary for pregnant women. The state also now maintains a database meant to track patients who may be doctor-shopping in order to get prescriptions for the kind of medicines that can lead to infant drug dependencies.