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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a problem that Louisville doctors say is likely to get worse before it gets better. An alarming number of babies are born addicted to prescription drugs. The epidemic has gotten so bad in Kentucky it's the focus of a statewide conference in Frankfort this week.
"Drug addiction has nothing to do with socioeconomic status or race it is across the board you will see them at every birthing hospital in this city," says University Hospital NICU Manager, Pauline Hayes.
The U of L Neonatal Intensive Care Unit saw 50 babies born addicted just last alone. That's up from just 4 in 2005. More than 730 cases were reported statewide.
"Oxycodone, Percocet, heroin, morphine things you can get legally with a prescription and things you can get illegally on the street," says Hayes.
WDRB News introduced you to Tiffany Hicks last July. She was so high on pain pills during her labor she doesn't even remember giving birth to her daughter. The baby was sent to live with a friend. Hicks is now getting treatment.
"It took me getting sober to realize what I had done to my child," Hicks, told WDRB.
University Hospital will participate in a statewide conference in Frankfort this week sharing its best practices for treating addicted babies. After much research, the hospital staff now treats them morphine and slowly weans them off the drug. The entire process takes about 30 days.
But that isn't the case elsewhere in the state.
"There are hospitals in the state who don't have any way of treating these babies so a lot of them go home…Some of these babies are going home not being appropriately treated," says Hayes.
The conference is aimed at sharing information and bringing awareness to a problem that doctors say will likely only get worse.
"I think it's going to get worse in the short term, I'm afraid. Just because of the going back to the street drugs," she says.
It's a dark road ahead in the commonwealth if the problem isn't addressed at a state level.
"Seeing what's working in other places and trying to find something that will work for us here," says Hayes.
What still isn't known, are what kind of long term neurological effects children born addicted could suffer from as they grow older. The statewide conference gets started tomorrow.
It's being called by the KY Health Department's Division of Maternal and Child Health.