Stop Addicting Babies

Babies born with illegal drugs and/or alcohol in their systems start life with two strikes against them. Given that their mothers, by definition, can’t control their drug and alcohol abuse, they may be even closer to striking out.

An Associated Press story last week reported that “newborn drug withdrawal is rampant in Maine, Florida, West Virginia and parts of the Midwest and other sections of the country.” If you are a regular reader of this column, you may remember I told you about the Mountain State problem a couple of years ago.

It’s serious, and it’s right here in River City.

In August 2009, state health officials tested samples of umbilical cord blood collected from hospitals throughout the state. The samples showed what drugs were in the blood systems of newborn babies, transferred to them by their mothers.

Samples from 65 babies were collected at Wheeling Hospital. Twelve percent of them showed illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and cannabinoids (marijuana). Fifteen percent contained alcohol.

In other words, one in eight of the Wheeling Hospital babies whose umbilical cord blood was tested had mothers who didn’t care enough about them to stop using dope during pregnancy. Even more kept drinking while they were carrying fetuses. Wheeling Hospital’s alcohol-in-blood rate was nearly twice as high as any of the seven other hospitals participating in the test.

From hospitals throughout West Virginia, umbilical cord blood samples were taken from 759 babies. Nearly one-fifth contained illegal drugs and/or alcohol.

Babies born dependent on addictive drugs and/or alcohol suffer physically and tend to develop slower intellectually.

The problem is growing, according to the AP story. More than 13,000 U.S. babies were affected by drug and/or alcohol withdrawal in 2009. That is about triple the rate a decade before.

Again, it’s bad enough many babies are coming into the world as, in effect, junkies. But their hooked mothers – and often fathers, on the rare occasions when the dads actually hang around – don’t make the best parents.

Go ahead. Accuse me of stereotyping and discriminating. Then, with a straight face, tell me whether you think I’m correct.

Extrapolate from those 2009 figures for West Virginia infants born with illegal drugs and/or alcohol in their systems. Clearly, thousands of children in our public schools right now were affected by the problem. And you wonder why teachers have trouble reaching some kids? Or why they complain frequently about parents who hinder rather than help them?

We West Virginians are just now beginning new initiatives, such as those involving truancy and juvenile drug courts, to get some at-risk children back on track. Obviously, some of them are inheriting the most serious challenge a kid can face, drug and alcohol abuse, from their parents.

And, again, clearly some of their mothers just don’t care. Whatever it takes to do something about that needs to be done. If that means more jail cells for pregnant women, so be it.

Myer can be reached at: