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Heroin’s Tiniest Victims

Every month, dozens of mothers suffering from heroin addiction give birth, and their babies enter the world with heroin running through their veins. It’s a heartbreaking side effect of the area's heroin epidemic.

They take their first breaths addicted like their mothers.

In a video from the Pediatric Interim Care Center in Washington state, you can hear the high-pitched cries of addicted newborns and see them shaking.

We spoke with the mother of a heroin addict in Lackawanna County--an addict who gave birth in January to a son born two months early and hooked on drugs.

“Have you ever seen a baby go through withdrawal?” she asked. “I was devastated. How could somebody do this to an innocent child?”

She did not want us to reveal her name because she is trying to get help for her addicted daughter and her baby grandson.

“It’s sad to say that this innocent person had to be born into the horrible world of addiction,” she said.

According to Pennsylvania's Health Care Cost Containment Council, it’s happening at record levels, as the number of drug addicted babies born in Pennsylvania more than doubled over the past 15 years.

In Susquehanna and Wayne Counties, about four percent of infants are now born addicted to heroin or painkillers.

In Pike County, that number is over five percent: one in every 18 babies born in Pike County is addicted.

In Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties, the number is two percent and straining the professionals who care for them.

Tricia Newell is a neonatal intensive care nurse at Geisinger Wyoming Valley near Wilkes-Barre. Incubators that fill her unit await the next tiny addict.

“Seeing them suffer and not being able to alleviate the pain, it’s difficult to see that,” said Newell.

At Geisinger's Janet Weis Children’s Hospital near Danville, neonatal doctor Lauren Johnson treats one addicted newborn every month.

“We’re definitely in the phase of things getting worse, but we are also in the phase of people finally realizing that,” Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson says there have been a few breakthroughs. Her staff is getting mothers-to-be into rehab early in their pregnancies.

“The risk of pre-term delivery, fetal death, that is all much more increased if mom is actively abusing,” she explained. “If, on the other hand, she is on treatment, while the world is not perfect, but it is a much safer place for that baby.”

“My daughter’s a full blown heroin addict, sometimes using 10, 15, 20 bags a day.”

The grandmother we spoke with says her daughter never sought help and shot up heroin just four hours before giving birth.

Six weeks later, the baby is still hospitalized and needs around the clock care.

“What type of life will he have? We don`t know.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, babies born addicted are more likely grow up with low IQ's and learning disabilities. The grandmother says her grandson is also at risk of being hearing impaired and going blind.

That baby’s medical care could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars before he gets out of the hospital.

As for the baby's mother, she is still living in Lackawanna County and still addicted to heroin.

19 comments

  • JP

    Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent, who is paying for it? That’s right the hard working tax payer. The grandmother should be slapped upside the head for allowing this kid to be born and lock the other b**check up.

  • CeeMe

    Absolutely Disgusting! These addicts don’t deserve to be blessed with children. They are poor excuses, not only for parents, but as human beings. God only knows how these children will be as they mature. We should give IQ and medical tests to people before they have children. Guess who will be taking care of these children, if the addicts can’t? That’s right. The rest of us.

  • PA SMELLS LIKE POO POO

    SAD, is that baby from Lil Ferguson, Pa. (WILLIAMSPORT)? That place is giving Philly a bad name!

  • laura

    how can luzerne county have the highest amount of deaths but 1 of the lowest for babies born addicted? numbers don’t seem like they add up there. maybe eventually programs like dare will step into reality and start educating kids on heroin instead of worrying about weed. don’t waste time with the video of the babies crying – show the shaking, seizures and deaths of babies and adults

  • think positive

    It’s hard to imagine that a baby would be sent home with a drug addict, or even a newly recovering drug addict. Drug dealers are no better than terrorists. They know about all of the human death and destruction they are dealing out, yet they continue without caring whatsoever. Their sentence should be a lethal injection of whatever drug they are selling.

    • laura

      years ago baby’s born with drugs in their system were seized by children and youth at the hospital and not allowed home. not sure what’s changed over the years since i left that line of work but it used to be if a mother was suspected the infant’s first urine was captured and tested. if the baby had drugs in it’s system it was taken away. i’m not sure that’s happening anymore.

      • co

        well years ago the hosp will call .cys and baby not allowed to go home with the mom.they will ask a family member to take the baby,very sad the baby has to go thru withdrawls and be in the hosp almost a month.then to take them home.and still problems with the baby.most have delays .so sad. i know first hand

  • sosad

    We have learned nothing from the heroin crisis of the 70’s and the crack addicted babies of the 80’s..except that nothing changes when nothing gets changed.

    • CeeMe

      You can’t fix stupid. Addicts are driven by their addictions. Why anyone would want to do this drug, is beyond me.

  • whatever831

    That is so disgusting and sad! And the last sentence?! The mother lives at home and is STILL addicted to heroine?! THROW HER IN A JAIL CELL AND LET HER GO THROUGH WITHDRAWEL. SCUMBAGS!

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