The United States is currently coping with a massive opioid epidemic. Often overlooked are its youngest victims: babies who are exposed to opioids in utero and then are born with an opioid drug dependence. Parents and families with an opioid addicted baby are seeking compensation through filing opioid lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers. This section offers a comprehensive look at opioid dependence and withdrawal in newborn babies.
Between the years 1999 and 2014, the sale of prescription opioids increased fourfold. In that same span of time, the number of babies born with drug dependencies (most often opioids) increased by 300%. According to CDC statistics which experts now say greatly underestimate the scope of the problem, an opioid addicted baby is born every 20 minutes in the United States. In many cases, the mother originally was prescribed opioids such as Vicodin, Percocet, or MS Contin for a legitimate reason such as chronic pain or a car accident, and then developed a substance addiction and continued to take the drug during pregnancy. For years, drug companies aggressively marketed opioid pain killers and downplayed the very serious risk of addiction. Opioid addicted babies are one tragic outcome of the industry’s greed.
When a pregnant mother takes an opioid drug, she passes the substance on to her fetus. In utero, the fetus develops an opioid dependency; upon birth, as the substance wears off, the newborn will begin to experience withdrawal. Acute withdrawal symptoms from newborn opioid addiction typically start within the first 24 hours following birth and may last for up to 4 to 6 months. Opioid addicted babies may continue to suffer from development delay and stunted growth throughout childhood as a result of fetal exposure to opioids.
While extensive research has been conducted on opioid addiction in adults, relatively little is known about newborn babies. We do know that what the mother took, how much, and when her last dose was before the baby’s birth can have an effect on the symptoms the child experiences. It is also believed that gestation stage at the time of birth can have an impact; premature babies are thought to suffer less or recover more rapidly from fetal opioid exposure.
Symptoms of opioid dependence in a newborn may surface within 24-48 hours following birth, or up to 5 to 10 days later. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
Measures can be taken to comfort the newborn and ease the symptoms of opioid addiction in babies. Opioid exposure in utero can also result in poor intrauterine growth and low birth weight, premature birth, and birth defects, which can have long term impacts including developmental delays, behavioral problems, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Many mothers of opioid dependent babies first took an opioid drug given by a doctor for legitimate reasons such as chronic pain following an auto accident. Manufacturers, though aware of the risk, minimized the danger of opioid addiction. Many patients took these drugs unaware of the potential for long-term consequences. There are many tragic stories of women taking a prescribed drug only to become addicted to opioids and later become pregnant. For their role in this public health emergency, opioid manufacturers are being asked difficult questions as to why the public was not fairly and clearly warned about the risk of addiction. Opioid addicted babies are among the most vulnerable victims of the American opioid crisis; at the expense of innocent families, pharmaceutical manufacturers lined their pockets for years.
When corporate greed harms children and their families, our attorneys are committed to achieving justice no matter how complex the case. Through settlements and winning verdicts, our attorneys have obtained millions for our clients. Let us help you today.
The most effective means individuals have for holding a pharmaceutical company accountable for public safety is filing a lawsuit for harm done to your family. Filing an opioid lawsuit can yield real compensation for medical expenses, suffering and loss. Contact us today for a free consultation.