They are the youngest victims of the prescription drug epidemic.
According to a recent study – every hour, a baby is born showing symptoms of opiate withdrawal.
The plight so widespread – some medical professionals are comparing the crisis to the so–called ‘crack baby’ epidemic of the eighties.
More than 13,000 infants a year are born dependent on painkillers like Percocet, Oxycontin and hydrocodone.
And like the cocaine-exposed babies of the 1980’s, these newborns are entering a world where little is known about the long-term effects on their health and development.
Doctors say one can become addicted to an opiate very quickly.
24-year-old Shaina Kenny is one of them …
“My son Tommy hasn’t known me sober. I started using when he was about 3 months old and he’ll be three in May, says Shaina Kenny.
Growing up a cheerleader and a straight a-student, this mother of two says she never considered herself a drug addict since she was prescribed hydrocodone to help recover from extensive dental work.
“I thought well this is prescribed, doctors are writing it – what could be so bad?” she says.
But in a matter of months, the home-maker admits to using diaper, grocery, and formula money on pills … and if she couldn’t scam enough to support her five-hundred dollar a week habit – withdrawal set in so bad she could not care for her family.
She describes “body aches, headaches, vomiting, chills and most of all I felt worthless I just wanted to lay in bed. I felt miserable.”
Rock bottom arrived a few months ago in the form of a positive pregnancy test.
“I never would have thought I would have picked up a drug while I was pregnant.”
But she did … and now is expecting baby number three while trying to get clean and sober with the help of Forterus rehab.
“Anything the mother is feeling with withdrawal the baby is feeling also.”
It’s called ‘Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome’ where newborns exposed to opiates in utero may experience seizures, vomiting, rapid breathing plus other severe health issues.
But quitting cold turkey could also be deadly.
“Its its best not to go through withdrawal symptoms. That will put them at high risk to lose the baby.”
Inside the rehab center – Shaina Kenny clutches the photos of her children to help her feel close to them … and for the unborn baby growing inside – she quietly hopes for a healthy and happy bundle of joy.
It’s not worth it for yourself or the baby to be addicted to it.
Tomorrow at 10:00 p.m. — Did Shaina’s years of drug abuse put the health of her unborn baby in jeopardy? We have the recent test results.
Part two of our in-depth look at the tiniest of addicts continues right here on KTLA News at 10.