The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that almost 20% of all babies born were exposed to alcohol at least once during their mothers' pregnancies. Fetal alcohol syndrome is the third most common birth defect and the leading cause of mental retardation in the US.
Substance abuse spans a wide range of drugs -- both legal and illicit. In addition to alcohol abuse, unborn children are exposed to opiates, marijuana and tobacco.
Estimates reported by the Daily Press indicate that every year move than 13,000 babies face sudden withdrawal as their supply of opiates is withdrawn during delivery. That number only reflects addiction to one substance. Determining exactly how many babies are born addicted to drugs like alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs is difficult to determine.
Long Term Harm
Unborn children and infants face numerous challenges before birth and after delivery. Consider these additional startling facts about the effects of psychoactive substances on babies.
Jail House Side Effects
- Studies show that the earlier a person is exposed to a drug, the more likely it is he or she will develop a drug abuse problem.
- In utero exposure to heroin increases the incidence of SIDS by 600 percent.
- Eighty percent of out-home-placements initiated by social workers are a result of prenatal alcohol consumption.
Infants born addicted to drugs are impacted emotionally, physically, and developmentally. Because more states are moving toward prosecuting mothers that expose unborn children to potential long term harm caused by substance abuse, infants face certain "jail house side effects".
Mother and child are separated shortly after birth when the mother is in jail, or sentenced to go to jail after delivery. The combined effect of drug side-effects and insecure attachment syndrome sets the stage for aggressive, extroverted behavior as this child grows. If not addressed early, anti-social behavior and early-onset aggression can lead to peer rejection, poor judgement and risky behavior which leads to arrest as a teen or young adult. Prognosis
Medical treatment for an addicted infant can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prevention and rehab programs for parents and infants are the most cost effective way to reduce long term harm and prevent infants from facing a future filled with drug abuse, physical and emotional challenges and eventual incarceration.