Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing addiction problem in the United States, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Of particular concern is the rise of the unmistakable signs of maternal prescription drug abuse in infants; in fact, some hospitals are overwhelmed with the complex task of weaning babies off dangerous prescription drugs.\n\nFinancial Consequences\n\nKentucky and Tennessee are home to many of the nation\u2019s worst prescription drug abuse problems, according to Dr. David Doty, the Buffalo Trace District Health Department director. Babies born with prescription drug addiction result in skyrocketing rates of accidental overdose and increased emergency room visits, the costs of which are often passed on to taxpayers. Efforts to limit the practice of doctor shopping \u2014 whereby addicts visit multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions \u2014 have been moderately successful, although prescription drugs\u2019 decreased availability resulted in a spike in heroin use.\n\nAdditionally, as more and more people become trapped in the cycle of prescription drug abuse, the pool of people who can seek full-time employment is shrinking because fewer people can pass a drug test. Those who are already employed but are high on prescription meds increase the risk of workplace accidents, raising workers\u2019 compensation and insurance rates. Incarceration costs rise, too, as people addicted to prescription drugs will often stop at nothing to get another high.\n\nNeonatal Abstinence Syndrome\n\nAs worrisome as the financial consequences are, the effects on the newborn and other family members are devastating. Newborns who suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome demonstrate the same symptoms that opiate addicts do when they withdraw from drugs. As a result, the first few days of life are marked by pain, vomiting and diarrhea, seizures, excessive sweating, and stiff limbs. Making matters worse is the fact that no one knows what future problems these smallest of victims will suffer. With no current standard of care, many hospitals are carefully weaning the infants off the mother\u2019s drug of choice.\n\nPerhaps ironically, some physicians advise expectant mothers who take prescription painkillers to continue during pregnancy because the symptoms of sudden withdrawal raise the risk of miscarriage.\n\n\u201cIt\u2019s a complex problem that\u2019s going to take a complex solution,\u201d according to Dr. Stephen Patrick, a University of Michigan researcher who studied the effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome.\n\n(Photo via)\n\nThe pictures in this blog are being used for illustrative purposes only; and any person depicted in the content, if any, is a model.