From Texas Public Radio:
The first few days of life can be a living hell for babies born to addicted mothers. They are dependent on the prescription painkillers or heroin their mothers used while they were in the womb. The withdrawal process can last days, weeks, even a couple of agonizing months. The medical term for the condition is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or NAS.
Lisa Cleveland, Ph.D., RN, with San Antonio’s U.T. Health Science Center says the symptoms are often intense. “Very high-pitched inconsolable crying, a lot of stomach issues, so vomiting, diarrhea,” Cleveland explained. “These babies don’t sleep well. They don’t feel good.”
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, about 400 drug dependent babies are born in Bexar County each year. That’s one-third of all the cases in Texas. Cleveland says it’s a psychological as well as a physical problem.
“The moms that we’ve worked with have shared stories of extreme shame and guilt for feeling that they caused this for their infant,” Cleveland said.
Here’s how San Antonian Yolanda Aldana, 27, puts it. “The drug had complete control over me. How could I let it get so far? How could I let it get so bad?”
Aldana’s addiction began after a botched epidural during the birth of her second child created back spasms and inescapable pain. The single mother was frustrated and needed help.
“The doctor prescribed me Vicodin,” Aldana said. “And, you know, I kept telling him I need to take more because I feel like it’s not working and he would just prescribe me more. It was just crazy. I was by myself. You know the drug just seemed to take everything else away, like, took all my pain away.”
Aldana says her doctor got in trouble for overprescribing prescription painkillers. When she could no longer go to the pharmacy, she searched her west San Antonio neighborhood and found heroin, less expensive and more available than Vicodin. “Heroin was ten times better and cheaper. I could find it on the streets,” Aldana added.
She was spending more than $300 a day on her habit, first snorting, then shooting up the illicit narcotic. “It took a toll on me,” she said.
Eventually, she lost custody of her two daughters as she disappeared into a habit that helped her numb the pain of her complicated life.