The number of babies coming straight out of the womb as drug addicts is rising, and officials say that Florida's out-of-control problem with easily available prescription pain pills may be to blame. Nearly 1,000 babies were born in Florida in 2009 that had to be treated for drug withdrawal symptoms. That's a 173 percent increase over a three-year period since 2006.
Though numbers for the full year haven't been released yet, The Florida Courier reports that 635 babies were treated for drug withdrawal in the first six months of 2010 alone. The babies come out of the womb physically addicted to the drugs because their mothers abused drugs during the pregnancy.
Statistics for which narcotics the infants tested positive for aren't available, but many physicians the Courier talked to say they've seen a massive increase in the number of babies addicted to prescription pills.
"I kept seeing the torture these babies are going through," says Janet Colbert, a founder of the Stop the Organized Pill Pushers and employee at a Broward hospital. "This one baby, he couldn't even feed. He was screaming -- his face was just quivering so badly he couldn't even get his face around the nipple to feed -- and I just said, 'I have to do something.'"
The rise in prescription pill addicted newborns has risen even as the number of "crack babies" in Florida has dwindled.
Thanks to lax regulations, Florida, and specifically Broward County, has become a hotbed for pill abusers looking to get easy prescriptions for their vice.
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"From October 2008 to March 2009, 49 of the nation's top 50 dispensing doctors of oxycodone were in Florida," reports The Courier.
Last year, Florida legislators finally passed laws signed by then Gov. Charlie Crist that aimed to curve the problem.
However, new Governor Rick Scott has already cut away at the effort by planning to eliminate the Office of Drug Control and a prescription monitoring database. As many as six deaths a day in Florida are believed to be linked to prescription pill abuse.