Life Lessons

Life Lessons: Pregnant & addicted to drugs

Life Lessons: Pregnant & addicted to drugs

Studies show the number of babies born addicted to drugs, including prescription medication has tripled in the last decade.

That's about 13,500 babies born each year fighting for their lives in NICU's across the country.

Now a handful of niche clinics are opening up to help drug addicted moms get clean and deliver healthy babies.

New mother "Maria," who asked us to conceal her identity, began shooting up the prescription pain reliever dilaudid with her boyfriend.

"I was lying, cheating, and stealing [to] get what I need," she says.

Paying for the drugs cost Maria her home. She tried rehab at a methadone clinic, but she became pregnant and lost the baby.

"I was just really depressed, really sad," Maria says.

However, she was one of the lucky ones.

Jessica Young, MD, Vanderbilt University, got Maria into Vanderbilt's Drug Dependency Clinic for pregnant women and started her on a drug called buprenorphine two years ago.

This year she had a healthy baby girl.

"It's given me the opportunity to be a mom and do what I'm supposed to do," Maria explains.

"One of our big goals is to keep moms and babies together," says Dr. Young.

However, that doesn't always happen.

One baby is born every hour in the U.S. addicted to opioids.

Dr. Young says mothers run the risk of losing custody of their children when Child Services gets involved.

"In several states there are bills being considered that would mandate jail time for these women," Dr. Young explains.

That's why she says options like buprenorphine are critical.

The drug blocks the brain's craving for opioids, making it less addictive than methadone. Dr. Young said patients report feeling normal, not "high."

"It's pretty much changed and saved my life," Maria says.

There are 38 states with fetal protection laws.

This month, Tennessee is under the national spotlight as it becomes the first state to criminalize drug use during pregnancy if the baby is born addicted to drugs.

The way the law is written, mothers being treated for their addictions with methadone, or called buprenorphine maintenance, could still be charged with a crime even though they are under a doctor's care.

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