Attorney General Pam Bondi is dedicated to fighting prescription drug abuse and closing pill mills. When she learned that infants were being born throughout Florida addicted to prescription drugs, she worked closely with the Legislature to create the Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Florida is seeing a growing number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs as the result of prescription drug abuse by their mothers. These babies are born suffering from withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, seizures, abdominal pain, incessant crying, and rapid breathing. In many cases, doctors and nurses give these newborns methadone, the same drug used to treat heroin addicts.
A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in April 2012 shows that, nationally, the number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs has nearly tripled in the past decade. The study indicates that 3.4 of every 1,000 infants born in a hospital in 2009 suffered from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The study concludes that newborns with NAS require longer and more costly hospitalization. The cost of caring for a newborn with NAS was estimated to exceed $53,000 per infant in 2009. The JAMA study notes that in Florida, where opiate pain reliever-related deaths are four times greater than all illicit drug deaths, state leaders are taking action to deal with the problem.
The Task Force
The 2012 Florida Legislature recognized the problem and adopted legislation creating a task force to examine the extent of prescription drug abuse among expectant mothers, as well as the costs of caring for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the long-term effects of the syndrome, and prevention strategies.
Over the next year, the Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns Task Force will determine the full extent of the neonatal abstinence syndrome in Florida. By the start of the 2013 legislative session, the task force will provide lawmakers with a series of policy recommendations on how to combat the problem.
The Prescription Drug Abuse & Newborn Task Force examines and analyzes prescription drug-driven neonatal withdrawal syndrome, evaluating effective prevention and treatment strategies, and submits its findings and proposals to the Florida legislature.
- Collect and organize data concerning the nature and extent of neonatal abstinence syndrome from prescription drugs in Florida.
- Collect and organize data concerning the costs associated with treating expectant mothers and newborns suffering from withdrawal from prescription drugs.
- Identify available federal, state, and local programs that provide services to mothers who abuse prescription drugs and newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
- Evaluate methods to increase public awareness of the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse, particularly to women, expectant mothers, and newborns.
- Examine barriers to reporting neonatal abstinence syndrome by medical practitioners while balancing a mother’s privacy interests.
- Assess evidence-based methods for caring for a newborn withdrawing from prescription drugs and how nurses can assist the mother in caring for their child.
- Develop a compendium of best practices for treating both prescription drug addicted mothers and infants withdrawing, both prenatal and postnatal.
- Assess the current state of substance abuse treatment for expectant mothers and determine what best practices should be used to treat drug addicted mothers.
Task Force Members
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
Florida Surgeon General, Dr. John H. Armstrong
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey
Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudack
Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins
Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos
March of Dimes Assistant State Director Keith Nash
Dr. Robert Yelverton
Pediatrix Medical Group Medical Director Dr. Kenneth Solomon
Florida Nurses Association Executive Director Willa Fuller
Dr. David Dixon
Senator Joe Negron
Representative Dana Young
BayCare Behavioral Health Executive Director Doug Leonardo
Healthy Start Executive Director Jane Murphy