Pueblo hospitals treat babies for opioids

Published: Apr. 28, 2017 at 5:44 PM MDT
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The opioid epidemic is turning heads at local hospitals because some medical centers are seeing a dramatic increase in babies having opioid withdrawal syndrome.

Dr. Steven Simerville at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo says there is an issue with opioids in general, but heroin is one of many opioids babies are being born with, especially in the last three years.

Simerville says in 2014, St. Mary-Corwin saw six babies with opioid withdrawal syndrome, but in 2015, there were 17.

"They can't eat, they are very tremulous, they have diarrhea, they lose weight, they are screaming and uncomfortable, and if you don't treat them that will go on for five or seven days or longer depending on the drug they are addicted to," said Simerville.

Simerville says oftentimes these babies require treatment with opioids.

"So often times we have to give them morphine or methadone or some other medications to control the symptoms," said Dr. Simerville.

Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo has also seen its fair share of babies dealing with similar circumstances.

Statistics released from the hospital show in 2016, the number of infants admitted and/or treated for drug exposure was 37. Out of those 37, the number of infants admitted/treated for heroin exposure was 22. Seven were Percocet-related, nine were for Suboxone/Subutex, and five were for methadone.

In 2015, the total number of infants admitted/treated for drug exposure at Parkview was 42. Out of those, 23 were heroin-related, 15 were Percocet/Vicodin, and 13 were methadone-related.

"It really interferes with the bonding with the family unit because the babies can't be held like a normal baby and they don't develop nice, loving relationships from the start, and then they maintain their difficulty to soothe and calm down for many months to years after the experience," said Simmerville.

Simmerville says there are some studies now that show these babies may grow up to have learning problems and behavioral problems that persist all the way through high school, but the drug itself is so disruptive to the family even from the beginning it interferes with bonding.