PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – It’s supposed to be one of the most exciting times in a women’s life. But sometimes being a mother can come in second when they’re addicted to prescription pain killers.
“I overdosed when I came into treatment,” said Kendra Mantel. “I died. I overdosed and died.”
Mantel, 24, should have been celebrating a life when she had just given birth to a son. Instead the Portsmouth woman checked into rehab to get clean and to regain custody of her only child Zayden. This happened all the while her newborn remained hospitalized with her drug addiction, ONN’s Denise Alex reported.
“Vomiting, shaking, stuff like that,” Mantel said. “So it was pretty horrible for a little infant.”
The prescription drug abuse problem is rampant throughout the state. But in southern Ohio it’s at epidemic proportions.
“We realize it’s not just a Scioto County problem. We call it ground zero,” said Dr. Aaron Adams, Scioto County’s Health Commissioner. “As we turned into the year 2000, we saw a big change from crack cocaine. We just saw the prescription drugs just accelerate.” Adams said that more and more expecting mothers are hooked on the habit.
At Southern Ohio Medical Center where Adams serves on the board of directors, one out of 10 newborns is addicted to Opiates. That is a 5% increase from 2009 when SOMC first began to review statistics.
“If it was there, I was not picky,” said Eden Bennington. “My drug of choice was Oxycontin.” Drugs kept Bennington, 25, from her son. “He’s seven-years-old. I haven’t seen him in three years,” Bennington said. After spending six months in jail, Bennington is now in rehab to prevent her unborn daughter, due in October, from being taken from her as well. “If I hadn’t went to jail I wouldn’t have found out I was pregnant and I would have still been using. I would have ended up dead,” Bennington said.
Medical experts said that any unborn child addicted to Opiates could end up dead or with serious health complications, Alex reported. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that babies exposed to Opiates in the uterus had slightly higher rates of birth defects including congenital heart defects, glaucoma and spin bifida.
“We really don’t know the consequences yet because the jury is going to be out for years until we see what happens to these babies,” Adams said.
“It’s a little tough to see for the babies,” said Mary Irwin, Director of Stepping Stone House. The Stepping Stone House is a minimum 90-day residential treatment program for women. “A client comes in and they tell you one story,” Irwin said. “Hopefully by the time they are leaving they are telling a totally different story and one that is the truth.”
Both Mantel and Bennington grew up in a family of addicts that consisted of drugs and violence. “My son was five weeks old when my dad got shot and killed,” Mantel said. Both young mothers said that they also had similar drug suppliers.
“I had more than one doctor at a time just to get enough pills to make it through the month,” Bennington said. Now the two women are getting help for themselves and for their children, Alex reported. They are both in a 90 day counseling and therapy program and then will do a six week program of post-partum care.
“I really want to break the cycle with him,” Mantel said. “I don’t want to become a part of his life and then mess up again,” Bennington said.
“Some of them, it’s the worst time of their life and we see a lot of miracles,” Irwin said.
Mantel said that it’s the miracles of staying clean that get them by. “A lot of people tell me they look up to me and it feels really good,” Mantel said. It’s also the miracle of having babies, who so far, have no developmental concerns. “He’s just so happy and smart,” Mantel said. “He just looks happy to be here.”
According to the Ohio Hospital Association, Drug Withdrawal Syndrome in newborn babies continues to rise statewide. There were 413 cases in 2007 and 1,116 in 2010.
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