The number of babies born with drug addiction in Perth has risen to its highest in six years, according to Perth Now.
The number of newborn babies treated for drug withdrawal symptoms has risen to 125 cases in the Western Australian city compared to 98 in the previous year, according to the Department of Health.
“Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a generalised disorder presenting a clinical picture of drug withdrawal in the infant,” the King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) guidelines state.
The withdrawal symptoms in newborns occur as a result of a variety of drugs including opiates, cocaine and derivatives, amphetamines, and alcohol.
“With less certainty, abnormal neurobehavioral patterns have also been reported in newborn infants of mothers with high intakes of marijuana, volatile substances, caffeine and the new SSRI antidepressants,” say the KEMH guidelines.
The babies symptoms include tremors, high pitched crying, irritability, sleep disturbance, sweating, vomiting and excessive sucking.
Perth Now says Western Australia’s authorities are struggling to deal with “an explosion of methamphetamine use”.
It comes as the state’s Child Protection Department recorded a rise in the number of newborns taken into care – with over 100 cases in the past year.
“The thought of a mother being separated from her baby at birth is just horrific but when we have a drug-addicted mother or mental health and housing and violence issues, we have to keep the baby safe,” Sally Kirk from the Child Protection Department told the paper.
In the US, baby cuddle programs exist across the country for newborns that are withdrawing from drug addictions.
In one example, cuddling helped cut a baby’s hospital stay in Virginia almost in half — from 40 days to 21, according to Today.
Babies in withdrawal who are held regularly seem to need less medication and go home sooner than those who are not, Chief Nursing Officer Maribeth McLaughlin told Today.
“They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling,” she said.
At one hospital in Pittsburgh, the cuddle program is so popular with volunteers it has a waiting list.
Featured image: file photo. Image via iStock.