Prescription drug addiction taking toll on babies

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by TONYA MOSLEY / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 27, 2011 at 5:25 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

KENT, Wash -- She's only 48 hours old and the only comfort she knows is from a heat lamp and the warm touch of a nurse.

She's helpless and highly addicted.

"Prescription drugs. I would say over half of our babies are prenatally exposed to them," said Barbara Drennon, co-founder of Kent's Pediatric Interim Care Center.

Up until a few years ago, babies addicted to crack, meth and heroin detoxed at the center. Today, they're addicted to methadone, percocet, vicodin and oxycontin.

"Prescription drugs are very hard on babies," Drennon said.

On Friday, Drennon took White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske on a tour of the center to get a first-hand look.

"The most important part, I think, is the education and the awareness," said Kerlikowske, who is Seattle's former Chief of Police. "Young people don't perceive prescription drugs as dangerous. People don't remember or think about what is in their medicine cabinets."

Dr. Peyton Gaunt says doctors need to pay better attention to the signs of addiction, especially in pregnant mothers.

"Western medicine, of course, we tend to focus on medicine for pain and there are other alternatives," said Gaunt.

No one really knows the long term effect of prescription opiate addiction, but Drennon hopes everyone will be touched enough to bring about change.

"I love these babies and they deserve a chance," she said.

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