It has recently been reported that for the first time in the history of our country that our children do not have the same predicted life span that their parents are expected to have. Our children are dying young. It is not only because of obesity, lack of exercise and transfats, it is also because of addictions. Addictions to drugs that take over our children's abilities to make wise decisions leads to sicknesses that are killing our young people at an alarming rate.
Why do I know this? Because I work in maternal child health and witness every day babies going through withdrawal from the drugs their mothers took while pregnant. Over the last few years we have seen a growing number of women in their childbearing years suffering from drug addictions.
I truly believe no one intentionally becomes addicted to harmful substances. These substances include nicotine, alcohol, heroin, Xanax, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, oxycodone and methadone. What may have started out as an intermittent escape from "life" or from pain, gradually over time became an addiction. For some people's brains the brain adjusts and starts to need the drug. The person taking the drug loses their ability to exercise control of thoughts, feelings, impulses and actions. Instead of the drug giving them relief, the taking of the drug becomes part of their survival.
Addictions are not new. The "Sirens" in Greek mythology would lure sailors with their songs. The songs were so enchanting that the sailors eventually would sail into dangerous seas, without caring that they were putting themselves in danger, just to hear the songs. The logical thought that they would die if they sailed into dangerous seas wasn't important. What was important is they must hear the songs. They had become addicted to the enchanting songs.
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Many of the mothers that I work with that suffer from addictions also suffer from depression. Watching their babies go through withdrawal breaks their heart. They have a sense of shame and guilt.
When babies go through withdrawal it is very painful not only for them, but for their mothers and the nurses that care for them. They have a cry that is high pitched and unrelenting. They have tremors and we work hard to prevent them from having seizures. They get a diaper rash that is so bad it can take their skin off. The crying comes in waves. As we hold them and feel their little bodies becoming rigid, we know that within a minute the cry will begin. It can last weeks or even months.
Witnessing this makes me very sensitive to how people that have addictions must feel when they don't get their drugs.
Unfortunately along with these drugs come other diseases. Many of these people with drug addictions also have Hepatitis C, HIV, and heart disease.
Drug addictions are so common now that it is estimated that one in four American families is affected. Addiction is a chronic, progressive and potentially fatal illness. There is no cure. However it can be treated and managed.
There is help, seek it if your family is affected. Our nation needs our young people to thrive, be strong, be fruitful, healthy and successful.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Her column appears every other week in Healthy Living. Contact her at email@example.com.