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Special Report: Tiny Addicts

More Babies Being Born Addicted to OpiatesThey 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.

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The prescription drug epidemic is not only destroying lives all over the country but doctors say right here in southern california.

Now, continuing in our health smart series, Cher Calvin is here with an in-depth look at the ‘tiniest of addicts’.

According to the American Medical Association, there has been a sharp and dramatic increase of prescription drug abuse in pregnant women making newborns the new generation of drug addicts.

Last night we introduced you to a pregnant mother trapped in the throws of opiate addiction … Now, what doctors expect for her unborn baby.

“I never would have thought I would have picked up a drug while I was pregnant,” says Shaina Kenny.

But with two kids at home and another one on the way – Kenny did … her prescription drug of choice – roxycodone, also called ‘Roxies’.

“It wasn’t like I was going out on the streets buying heroin or cocaine. I thought is was OK because I’m getting them prescribed. This is medicine.”

For years, the 24-year old was unable to break free from the stranglehold of opiates – until the small voice of her three year old daughter inspired the pregnant mother to seek help.

“We were leaving to go run an errand one night which is what we called it,” Kenny says, “and she looked at me and started crying and said I don’t want you to run errands no more and I turned the car around and went home.”

After checking in to Forterus rehab, Kenny’s under gone extensive doctor visits and ultra-sounds – so far, all test results reveal a healthy baby.

“For anyone out there suffering from dependency there is help out there you don’t have to be like this, says Kenny.

Doctors at Cliffside Malibu rehabilitation also warn mothers can not only pass their opiate dependence on while pregnant, but also after giving birth.

“The opiates can be passed through breast milk and there are dangers of opiate dependence in the child,” Damon Raskin, MD from Cliffside Malibu Rehab.

And addiction experts insist just because it may be prescribed by your doctor – doesn’t make it safe.

“Opiates are more dangerous than heroin or cocaine combined. More people die from opiate addiction than from both those combined,” Richard Taite, Cliffside Malibu

The experts at Cliffside Malibu also told us its imperative to treat these mothers psychologically not just physically.

We will also keep you updated on the health of Kenny’s baby.

– Cher Calvin, KTLA News

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.