As part of an ongoing series in partnership with Reuters, NBC News is delving into the tragic and preventable phenomenon of accidental, drug-related infant deaths.
More than 130,000 babies have been born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, brought on by substance abuse through pregnancy, in the last decade. One such child was Brayden Cummings, born to Tory Schlier who was addicted to heroin.
Six weeks after his birth, his mother accidentally suffocated him when she fell asleep on top of the baby while under the influence of meth, Xanax, and methadone prescribed to her to help her recover from her heroin addiction.
Brayden is among the 110 babies to suffer preventable deaths since 2010, as identified by Reuters. While none of these children actually died as a result of withdrawal symptoms after birth, illicit substances still contributed to each death.
40 died of suffocation; 13 ingested lethal doses of opioids. One child died after drowning in a washing machine after her mother placed her in with a load of laundry while high on meth.
Another common thread to each of these tragic cases is the absence of measures to protect these children following discharge from the hospital. While under the care of medical officials following birth, newborns are constantly monitored to ensure their safety.
However, if the addicted mother and infant are not tested for drug presence in their systems, the child and mother are typically discharged within 48 hours of birth.
Unfortunately many mothers living with substance abuse disorders do not come forth about their struggles in fear of losing custody of their children. If doctors have reason to suspect substance abuse they can order these tests anyway, but symptoms of withdrawal in newborns don’t usually set in until 48 to 72 hours after birth- after the typical discharge time of the baby and mother.
There is a law in place which requires doctors to report suspicions of drug abuse to Child Protective Services for the safety of the mother and child. However, with addicted mothers unwilling to openly admit to substance abuse due to fear and withdrawal symptoms not presenting until after discharge, too many children are being placed into potentially deadly situations.
It is important to note that a majority of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome go on to lead full lives; however, the dangers posed to newborns is significant enough to warrant a need for change.
Here’s a video highlighting the effects of drug use during pregnancy.
Do you think pregnant women and new mothers should be required to submit to drug tests? Give us your opinion!
Keep Up With Trending Addiction News