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Opioid abuse impacting infants

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Chris Caya, wbfo
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The growing opioid epidemic is taking a toll on society's most vulnerable: newborn babies.

According to federal data the number of opiate-dependent newborns skyrocketed nationally by  nearly 500 percent.

Dr. Thomas Riley, Director of Sister's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, says in many cases moms got addicted to a legally prescribed opiate like Lortab.

"They generally start with a car accident or a back injury. And they become dependent on it that way," Riley explained.

"Even though they may try and wean themselves off they still become dependent and they get pregnant and have a baby during that time - that baby's born dependent on that medication."

Painful withdrawal symptoms begin shortly after birth.

State Senator Tim Kennedy is pushing a bill requiring healthcare providers be educated about the dangers of prescribing painkillers. Kennedy is also calling for more state funding for treating addiction.