Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Babies born addicted to prescription drugs on the rise

TAMPA — Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi wants to protect the youngest victims of the state's prescription drug abuse epidemic: babies born to addicted mothers.

On Friday, she and Senate President Mike Haridopolos hosted a roundtable discussion with top officials from BayCare Health System to discuss the enormity of the problem and what can be done to stop it.

How bad is it? At St. Joseph's Women's Hospital, where the roundtable was held, 15 to 20 percent of the babies admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit are treated for withdrawal from prescription drugs like oxycodone, hospital officials said.

Statewide, an estimated 1,300 babies were treated for withdrawal in 2010, a 30 percent increase from the previous year.

"We've got to stop this," said Bondi, who has made tackling the prescription drug abuse epidemic a top priority.

She championed legislation this past session that tightens reporting requirements to a prescription drug monitoring database, including increased penalties for doctors who overprescribe narcotics and steps toward a dosage cap on dispensing for pharmacies.

Haridopolos, a Merritt Island Republican, hopes those measures will decrease the number of people — pregnant women included — who are addicted to drugs like oxycodone, methadone and Xanax.

But Bondi said more needs to be done to help expectant mothers, many of whom don't realize the problems that prescription drugs can have on their unborn children.

Bondi said she would partner with St. Joseph's to start a national task force aimed at educating women and others of the dangers. Babies born with prescription drugs in their system can suffer from stiff limbs, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and constant crying.

In some cases, women are treated during pregnancy — usually with methadone — which can ease or eliminate their craving for other drugs and help save their baby's life. Merely going cold turkey could actually kill the baby.

Babies born with prescription drugs in their systems often spend the first weeks of their lives in hospital neonatal intensive care units getting weaned off their addiction. Mindy Young, a nurse and manager of St. Joseph's unit, said it's a painful process that can take up to 30 days.

"This is modern-day heroin," said Haridopolos, who was accompanied by his wife, Stephanie, a family practice doctor in Melbourne. "The key is increasing awareness of the impact of these powerful narcotics on newborns."

Richard Martin can be reached at or (727) 893-8330.

Babies born addicted to prescription drugs on the rise 05/13/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 13, 2011 9:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas sees spike in infant deaths from unsafe sleeping, and advocates are concerned


    The reports from the Department of Children and Families are tragic: A Pinellas County mother falls asleep on a recliner during an early morning feeding and wakes to find one of her 3-month-old twins unresponsive. Another finds her 6-month-old daughter lying still, a blanket over her head. Another infant is found wedged …

    Advocates are looking to step up their public information efforts this year after reports show a spike in sleep-related infant deaths in Pinellas County. []
  2. Kellyanne Conway warns of health care spin, but then delivers her own in Miami


    On the same day that Senate Republicans were forced to delay a vote on their healthcare legislation because not enough of them wanted to vote for it, White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended the bill in Miami.

    White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway is welcomed by state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-District 105, at the Miami-Dade GOP’s Lincoln Day fundraiser on Tuesday night.
  3. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter


    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  4. New poll shows tight St. Pete mayor's race


    A few hours after Rick Baker bested Mayor Rick Kriseman in a post-debate straw poll, a local pollster released a survey conducted the same day showing a considerably closer race.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker answers a question during the mayoral candidate forum at Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday. Mayor Rick Kriseman is in the foreground.
  5. Review: Mark Bowden's 'Hue 1968' a gripping, and timely, history


    More than 40 years after it ended, America's war in Vietnam is still contentious, still misunderstood, and fast slipping into the fog of history.

     On Feb. 15, 1968, U.S. Marines carry out an assault on Dong Ba Tower in Hue, South Vietnam. In the battle for the tower, six men died and 50 were wounded.