Every 19 minutes a baby is born with an opioid addiction because their mother has abused drugs during pregnancy.
An investigation by Reuters has revealed that drug addiction in the United States has reached crisis levels with more than 27,000 babies starting their life with a drug dependency in 2013. And over the last 10 years, more than 130,000 infants in the US were born addicted to opioid drugs including heroin, methadone and morphine.
Babies born with a drug addiction suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) which has painful withdrawal symptoms including violent shaking, muscle clenching, discomfort and difficulty breathing. NAS can also cause feeding problems and affected infants can find it hard to sleep and settle, making them difficult to care for.
1% of pregnant women abuse drugs
Official statistics for the UK show that around one in 100 pregnant women misuse drugs, which could potentially cause problems for their unborn child. Heroin is the most commonly abused drug in pregnancy, although there are also issues with people using cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines.
Taking heroin during pregnancy can interfere with the baby’s growth in the womb, increasing the risk of low birth weight and prematurity. And using cocaine can affect brain development and can cause learning and behavioural problems when the child is older.
Government figures estimate between 200,000 and 300,000 children in England and Wales have a parent with a substance misuse problem.
Drug testing can reveal whether a woman is using illegal substances during pregnancy and whether she needs additional help and support to kick the habit.
AlphaBiolabs carries out legal drug testing for local authorities, the court system and other organisations. The results are often used to help authorities make informed decisions about the welfare of babies and children so they can be protected from the consequences of drug abuse.