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Science

Babies Experiencing Drug Withdrawal Rises in Lee County

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Lee County hospitals saw a significant rise from 2013 to 2014 in the number of babies born experiencing withdrawal from narcotics like heroin and some prescription drugs.

Dr. William Liu, medical director of the neonatal intensive care unit at Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida, said the number of babies born with drug withdrawals rose 19 percent in one year.  

This comes after several state, federal and local initiatives to fight things like prescription drug abuse.

Around 2011 and 2012, Liu said those efforts looked like they were having an effect on the increasing number of drug-addicted babies.

But, that didn’t last. Liu suspects as one type of drug was focused on, users found alternatives.

“There probably was some sort of I guess a backstreet adaption to whatever’s available,” he said. “It’s almost like a free market system where if there’s increased demand somehow the supply will become more available.”

Liu said the growing number of babies born experiencing drug withdrawal speaks to a larger societal issue about what leads people to become addicted to drugs and how to address that. 

Note: After the piece ran, Dr. William Liu notified WGCU he mistakenly provided an inaccurate statistic. The number of babies born with drug withdrawals rose 24 percent in one year. Not 19 percent.