Babies born addicted to narcotics must be treated with methadone and weaned off.

Babies born addicted to narcotics must be treated with methadone and weaned off.
Photo Credit: CBC

High number of babies are born addicted


The number of babies born in Ontario addicted to narcotic drugs increased from .9 per one thousand in 2002, to 5.1 per thousand in 2011, according to a new study. That suggests Canada has higher rates of babies born into withdrawal that the U.S., England or western Australia.

While the study only included one Canadian province, Ontario is home to 40 per cent of the country’s population and researchers suggest the results reflect what is going on in the rest of the country.

Babies are jittery, may have seizures

The condition of newborns depends on how much their pregnant mothers used drugs.

“When the babies are born, if the amount of opioid that they’ve been exposed to has been of sufficient amount or in particular sufficient duration, they go into acute withdrawal,” says Dr. Astrid Guttmann, chief science officer at Toronto’s Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children.

“They essentially look jittery. Often their temperature can be very high or very low. And in very severe cases, if they’re not treated, they could have a seizure.”


Newborns treated with methadone

Such babies are treated with methadone and gradually weaned off.

The increase in numbers of babies born addicted may have to do with increased reporting of maternal drug use says Guttmann, but she adds there is an increasing problem with opioid addiction. Canadian doctors are the second highest prescribers of such drugs in the world.

Guttmann says many pregnant mothers are not taking heroin, but are on codeine or other drugs that they obtain either on the street or from their doctors.

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2 comments on “High number of babies are born addicted
  1. Patrica Willan says:

    Why is there no law in effect to protect the unborn babies???? We desperately need a law punishing those who continue to use DRUGS during their pregnancy. The sound of a DRUG addicted baby is thee worst sound in the universe. These women need to be STOPPED & punished for their heartless actions.

  2. Ro deBree says:

    What about all the babies born addicted to the worst drug, alcohol.