Opiate abuse and addiction is an epidemic that has been plaguing the United States for well over a decade. Countless lives have been lost and the effects of opiate addiction are like a domino effect. The addiction to opiates does not just affect the addict, it has great consequences for many family and friends.
On a daily basis, I am contacted by family members, significant others and friends of opiate addicts. They want so badly to try and help the person who is suffering from the addiction. They want to put an end to the constant stress and the dangerous lifestyle they are living. The first thing I always tell the person trying to help the addict is that they have it far worse than the addict themselves. The addict has the ability to reach out for help and go to a rehabilitation center, or find other means to achieve a clean life whenever they decide to. But the bottom line is that the opiate addict is the one who has the control. The person trying to help has to sit by the wayside and watch a train wreck happen over and over again, never being able to have the ability of picking the train up and putting it safely back on the tracks.
There is no better example of a person having to suffer because of the selfishness of the addict than when a child is born dependent on opiates. This happens all the time and to be fair, when an expecting mother who has been prescribed prescription painkillers prior to knowing that they were pregnant finds out late that they are expecting, most doctors recommend that the mother stay on the medication. If they decide to go off of the opiate painkillers, there is a greater chance that the pregnancy could lead to a miscarriage. But when a mother is abusing opiates, the baby will have to endure opiate withdrawals in its first days of life which is not fair to the baby.
The U.S. Senate passed a bill yesterday co-sponsored by Maine Senators Susan Collins and Angus King that wants more focus put on reducing the number of infants born dependent on opiates. A child’s first days alive should not be spent suffering through opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is something that can be completely prevented.
Maine released data that shows a staggering increase in the amount of babies being born dependent on opiates. In 2006, 178 babies were born addicted to opiates which is terrible in itself, but in 2015 the number has soared to 995 and the year isn't even over yet.
The "Protecting Our Infants Act" instructs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the problem. It also puts focus on collecting more data by having the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work closer with states. If more data is collected, there will be a better idea of where education can be pushed.
Change needs to happen because this is a problem that can be prevented. No one wants to see a newborn suffer from opiate withdrawals because of a selfish act of an addict parent. The more options that addicted mothers have and showing the consequences of abusing opiates may push more people to get clean before this could happen to them.