Kristi's Kids

Mar 5, 2014 7:41 PM by Kristi Tedesco

Breaking the cycle: Babies born addicted

TUCSON - Last July, Kristi's Kids investigated the number of babies being born exposed to prescription drugs. At least one baby a month at Diamond Children's. Now we're seeing a spike in heroin-using moms. Kristi's Kids Investigated.

"Like my mom was an addict and a lot of people in my family where addicts and I was like "that's gross, I'm never ever going to do drugs," said Stephany Young, a Youth Recovery Court participant.

Despite this, Stephany Young did. She started with pot and by the age of 15, she was doing heroin. "It was just around so easily for me that I just thought that it was ok to do it..." In time, Stephany was arrested.

Stephanie Missouri, a recovering heroine user says she "...started off snorting them, um, snorting them, crushing them up and snorting them." She says, growing up, she was a good kid, a model student. But when she got into college she tried pills. In time, it became a costly habit. She too, turned to heroin, "...as a substitute, because money was hard, we had already been evicted from one apartment, we were close to getting evicted from another." But stopping wasn't an option, "It was just well this is what we need, and this is cheaper and this is faster, and easier to find."

"It ended up leading into just shy of ten years of using heroine all day, every day with very few breaks," says Missouri. Then, toward the end of those 10-years, Stephanie got pregnant. She started a methadone program but relapsed. Before her baby was even born CPS intervened.

Dr. Alan Bedrick, of Diamond Children's neonatal intensive care unit, says these stories of heroin dependency are common.

Dr. Bedrick says, "Fairly regularly, in fact ever week or ten days, a new infant is admitted."

Withdrawal symptoms for an infant depend on how much an expecting mother uses, "We clearly see that they are in pain and discomfort."

Some of the symptoms are inconsolable crying, irritability, discomfort. To treat these symptoms right after birth, babies are given morphine every 3 hours, and this can go on for a few weeks to a few months.

Stephanie Missouri says, "I wasn't able to walk out of the hospital doors with my daughter, I wasn't going to be able to have physical custody of her."

Pima County Juvenile Court's Commissioner, Susan Kettlewell says, "A lot of the time those children are placed in medically fragile foster homes because of the need to monitor their condition." Kettlewell, who works in Family Drug Court, says that when a child can't be placed with other family members, they go into foster care.

As the parents go though the Family Drug Court, many parents are ordered into a methadone program with drug tests 2-to-3 times per week on top of substance abuse and relapse prevention classes.

The Commissioner says that 90% of those parents who do Family Drug Court get their kids back versus the 50% of those who don't do the program. Kettelwell also says, of all the cases she sees in her courtroom, 75% are substance abuse-related. "...and those numbers have swelled over the years, in 2012 and 2013 we had the highest number of cases filed in the Pima County Juvenile court than there have ever been."

Stephany Young is in the court's Youth Recovery Program. She graduated early from high school and wants to be a forensic psychologist.

Stephanie Missouri is a part-time student, and in the restaurant industry. Her now almost 2-year-old daughter had symptoms but didn't require pain management. She hopes others will learn from her close call, "Really think about what you're doing not only to yourself, but to your child."

According to Arizona law, if a child is under the age of 3, parents have to get clean and sober in 6-months. And if the child is 3 or older, they have a year or two.

If someone you know needs help battling heroin click here. And if you have a story you'd like us to investigate, send an email to kristiskids@kvoa.com

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