CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW) – Often times the most innocent victims of the opioid epidemic are babies born addicted to drugs, and experts say the problem is only getting worse.
Kathy Wade, a nurse and clinical coordinator of pediatrics and newborn nursery at Conway Medical Center, helps take care of these babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS.
“We rarely have a week that goes by that we don’t have one or two or more babies that are born drug addicted,” Wade told WBTW News 13.
According to the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, 24 babies were born with NAS in Horry County in 2017, more than any other county in the state.
“It’s very sad. It’s sad to watch a little, tiny baby have to deal with something that a grown-up has a hard time dealing with,” Wade said.
Wade says babies with NAS require a lot of attention and patience while going through drug withdrawal because they are restless, cry constantly and are unable to eat, among other symptoms.
Nurses keep the babies in dark, quiet rooms because they have extra sensitivities to light, sound and sometimes touch.
“You can think about being jittery and upset, and that’s how the babies are. They’re very sensitive,” Wade said.
The long-term effects of NAS are not yet known, but doctors suspect the babies could experience cognitive issues later in life.
Mothers who give birth to babies addicted to drugs could be charged with child neglect. That’s why nurses say women with drug problems who become pregnant need to seek help from their doctor immediately.