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Task Force Wants Action to Help Addicted Newborns

February 5, 2013 | WMFE - Florida's task force on prescription drug abuse and newborn babies has finished its recommendations for addressing the issue. State Attorney General Pam Bondi says she wants those solutions to start being implemented as soon as possible.

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Attorney General Bondi says she has personally seen the babies born in agony because of drug withdrawal.

“Their cry is like nothing I’ve ever heard. It’s a shriek. Instead of milk, they’re getting morphine or methadone. That’s how they’re entering this world. It’s heart breaking. They’re in a tremendous amount of pain. They’re sensitive to light, to touch, to sound. Their little incubators are covered in blankets.”

Bondi is talking about babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a result of their mothers using prescriptions drugs like Oxycodone while pregnant. 

The Attorney General headed up a task force to address concerns related to expectant mothers who use or abuse prescription drugs. 

“You know, if you watch T.V. and you see one of those addicts going through withdrawal on one of those crime shows and they’re shaking, that’s how these babies are born into this world.”

One of the task force’s recommendations is a campaign aimed at educating mothers about the effect using prescription drugs can have on their unborn child.

Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos is a member of the task force. She’s the wife of former Senate President Mike Haridopolos and a family practitioner. She says many women who’ve been using prescription drugs are surprised when, after giving birth, they can’t take their baby home right away.

“I believe that there’s some naivety with people taking prescription drug thinking that it doesn’t really harm you like it would if it was a street drug. And of course, that’s not the case.” Haridopolos said “So the more we make that general public knowledge, hopefully the less women would partake in these drugs during pregnancy.”

The task force also talked about ideas like encouraging doctors to screen pregnant patients, even if it’s just by asking questions about their prescription drug use. The group also wants to increase reporting of drug abuse so the issue can be more easily tracked.

Bondi says she’d like to see legislation that would let prescription drug abusers seek help without getting in criminal trouble but that’s something State Senator Joe Negron, a Republican from Stuart, says would have to be done carefully.

“I’ve said from day one, when I sponsored this bill in the Senate that I wanted to treat this as a medical issue and a public health issue rather than a law enforcement issue.” Negron said. “On the other hand, there are some reasonable concerns that we don’t want to look like we’re turning a blind eye to criminal activity and no one gets a free pass. Even if you’re in a sympathetic situation, we all still have to obey the law. So, I think we need a little more work on how to do it.”

Negron says this year might be too soon to bring such a bill forward but Bondi says she hopes to see officials start taking action on the task force’s recommendations as soon as possible.


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