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      Innocent Addicts: Infants battling withdrawal

      Drug addiction during pregnancy has been on the rise over the last decade. And unfortunately, that means more infants must go through withdrawal.

      A high pitched cry, tight muscles, and seizures are a few symptoms infants, born to mothers with drug addiction, show.

      "Sometimes you can't stop them from crying because that's what they want is what they're withdrawing from, and they don't know how to deal with it," said Morgan McAuliffe, a high school senior who is learning about the NICU as part of her Health Occupation class.

      A University of Michigan study estimates that one baby is born addicted to prescription and non-prescription drugs every hour in the United States. And 13,539 babies are born with Neo-Natal Abstinence Syndrome each year, which means the infants suffer from withdrawal symptoms from these drugs.

      Babies born to drug-addicted mothers has become a local epidemic.

      Marquette General Hospital houses the Upper Peninsula's only Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit. And in the last six years, they have seen a 378 percent increase in drug-addicted infants enter the NICU.

      "We also keep an eye on, neurologically, how irritable they are, how much they can tolerate. Most drug withdrawal babies can't tolerate a lot of stimulation, they can't tolerate even eating," said Kelly Kurin, a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in the NICU at Marquette General Hospital.

      "It's really hard to see all the babies like this, but it's good to feel that I can help out in some way rather than just being sitting here doing nothing to help them. So it's nice; it's nice to be able to help as much as I can," McAuliffe said.

      The question people start to ask when they hear about this sensitive topic is, why is this happening in this day and age, when people are more educated on the subject?

      The answer: Opiates.

      I will explain more, in the second part of my series.