Babies born with drugs in their system increasing as price of meth goes down in Monroe County

AMORY, Miss. (WCBI) – The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department says that one of the most troubling elements of the area’s increased drug activity is the rising number of infants born with drugs in their system.

Meth, cocaine, morphine and heroin are some of the drugs that Neonatal Intensive Care Unit director Dr. Zhear Al-Godi says he finds most often in the babies he and his team treat at North Mississippi Medical Center Gilmore-Amory.

“When a mother gets exposed to drugs, it will affect the baby in some way, either early after birth or in their lifetime,” he says. “The earlier they get exposed, the worse it’s going to be.”

Known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, Dr. Al-Godi says his NICU has seen a tremendous increase in these cases starting around 2017 or 2018.

“I can say comfortably, there was a more than 500 percent increase in how many babies we take care of here in the NICU,” Dr. Al-Godi says.

As of Wednesday, the Amory hospital was treating one infant, who was less than one week old, born with drugs in their system.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department says deputies have made nine felony child abuse arrests so far in 2022 involving babies exposed to drugs in the womb.

“The cost of the narcotics has gone down so much that they’re easily accessible,” says Lt. Spencer Woods. “It’s here.”

Dr. Al-Godi estimates that they treated 5 to seven infants in 2021.

“The hospital here, whenever we discover a case of exposure or addiction, from the mothers’ side, we have a social worker who’s dedicated to go ahead and help,” he says.

Lt. Woods, who oversees child abuse cases for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, says that neonatal abstinence syndrome is a problem that extends across the entire country that has no easy answer.

“Anyone that needs any kind of assistance in getting clean, going to rehab, we most definitely work with them and get them anything we can possibly help them with,” he says.

Meanwhile, Dr. Al-Godi says that the growing trend of early drug exposure could have a lasting impact on future generations.

“It’s going to be affecting the whole society,” he says. “Because as a society, we depend on those newborns. They’re going to carry on our future.”

Lt. Woods says that one short-term solution is to continue emphasizing proper drug education programs in school, which is something he believes those in his generation did not have.

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