By Jennie Taer
Daily Caller News Foundation
- Babies are becoming exposed to extremely potent drugs like fentanyl as the drug crisis continues to ravage the country.
- Exposure often happens before birth or in a baby’s first months or early years, according to multiple reports and experts who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “The country has never experienced anything like this and we need a greater sense of urgency to cut off the supply from the Mexican Cartels,” former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Operations Division Derek Maltz told the DCNF.
The epidemic of fentanyl and other drugs is hurting babies, both after birth and in utero, leading to deadly consequences in some cases and a difficult path to recovery in others, according to multiple reports and experts who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded more than 100,000 drug overdose deaths, mainly driven by extremely potent and lethal fentanyl, in 2021. Babies exposed to narcotics endure neonatal abstinence syndrome and endure tough withdrawal symptoms, according to experts who spoke with the DCNF.
The high potency of drugs like fentanyl makes it all the more of a threat to America’s youngest victims, many of whom don’t survive exposure, former head of the DEA’s Special Operations Division Derek Maltz told the DCNF.
“Fentanyl has been the most devastating drug in America’s history. Besides killing record levels of children below the age of 14, unfortunately babies are also getting exposed to this poisonous substance,” Maltz said.
Babies are often exposed outside of the womb and there are many local news reports that point to fatal outcomes. Every 25 minutes a diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome in the U.S. is made, according to a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH).
An 18-month-old baby died due to a fentanyl overdose on Dec. 16 in Riverbank, California, according to KCRA3. Local authorities subsequently arrested the baby’s mother and boyfriend.
A 4-year-old boy also died of a fentanyl overdose in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2022, according to WSAZ. Authorities arrested his mother, who believes her son got ahold of what she thought was a bottle of Percocet that turned out to be a counterfeit pill containing fentanyl.
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A mother and her boyfriend in Syracuse, New York, gave their 11 month old son fentanyl to calm him, according to syracuse.com. The couple was later charged with murder in the second degree.
Jill Kingston is the founder and president of Brigid’s Path, Ohio’s first newborn recovery center that supports newborn babies previously exposed to drugs in the womb. She has observed more babies coming into her facility’s care as the drug crisis continues.
Brigid’s Path cares for babies and works to help mothers find stability and rehabilitation.
“Each year, we’ve cared for more,” Kingston told the DCNF of the surge in babies born exposed to drugs.
“It could be meth with heroin, fentanyl or it could be a mixture of stuff rather than just one. In the beginning, it was just heroin,” Kingston added.
Exposure before birth can lead to adverse effects, such as neonatal abstinence syndrome, according to the CDC. Many of the babies exposed to drugs like fentanyl experience grueling withdrawals.
“When you see the baby go through withdrawal, you see shaking, sneezing, they get diaper rash. You see just sleep disturbances and then eating problems,” Kingston said.
Brigid’s Path nursing manager Victoria Halfcare compared the grueling process for babies as enduring “the worst flu ever,” in an interview with the DCNF. Later in life, individuals exposed as babies may develop neurodevelopment, cognition, school performance, behavior, vision and mortality, some observational studies suggest.
“They’ll have symptoms like high pitched screaming, maybe they’ll start rubbing their little neck so hard they get redness there. One of the other really uncomfortable symptoms is frequent stooling so much that their bottoms become red and raw,” Halfcare said of a baby’s experience with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which also includes trouble eating.
The babies that don’t receive such care typically end up in the foster system, according to Kingston.
“The country has never experienced anything like this and we need a greater sense of urgency to cut off the supply from the Mexican Cartels,” Maltz said.
This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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