Addicted Infants in Safe Custody

Addicted Infants in Safe Custody
Addicted Infants in Safe Custody

In the past two months, 180 infants in Tehran were taken away at birth from their drug-addicted mothers. While some of the newborns have been handed over to welfare centers, others are being kept at Mehrafarin Charity Institution located in Shohada Street.

Babies born to mothers addicted to drugs start on detoxification treatment immediately, said Dr Seyed Mohammad Hadi Ayazi, social deputy at the Health Ministry.

“Addicted babies cry in pain for hours, suffer tremors, respiratory problems and have low birth weight,” he said, quoted by Salamat News.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) also termed neonatal narcotic withdrawal syndrome, is one of the most common forms of newborn drug dependency where children tremble and wail inconsolably, clenching their muscles and sometimes gasping for breath as they go through withdrawal symptoms.

Treating drug addiction in infants involves giving the newborn minute amounts of opiate to help relieve withdrawal symptoms and to wean it off the substance.

Ideally, the newborns should be kept in the welfare centers until their mothers also undergo addiction treatment and quit drugs. However, at present, babies whose mothers have a place to live are released after detoxification.

Only babies of homeless mothers aren’t released after detoxification, and remain under the protection of the State Welfare Organization (SWO) or a charity institution until their parents find a suitable place to live in.

  First Step

On the process of identifying addicted babies, Ayazi said, “As a first step, some of the most important maternity centers and hospitals such as Akbar-Abadi Hospital in Mowlavi St. and Mahdiyeh Hospital in Shush have been mandated to identify such babies.”

Pregnant women who don’t deliver in hospitals or maternity homes are also identified by the social workers of the SWO and the Tehran Municipality and their cases are reported to the judicial officials.

Ayazi said the measures have been taken to prevent child abuse, as these infants are more likely to be abused after they are born. “Most of the homeless addicted mothers sell their babies to get their next fix.”  

The head of Social Emergencies Center at the SWO in June had urged hospitals across the country not to release abused children and infants addicted to drugs from birth, into their parents’ custody even after recovery. Hospitals must contact the Social Emergency Center hotline ‘123’ or the Law Enforcement Forces number ‘110’ to get clearance before releasing an addicted or abused child,” Dr. Hossein Asadbeigi had told IRNA.

  20,000 Homeless People

The rate of addiction among neonates and infants has increased in recent years, prompting authorities to take strict action to prevent abuse.

A large number of children become dependent on opioids from birth since their mothers, who usually come from economically-weaker strata or are homeless, are drug addicts. Most of such children enter the world hooked on drugs – a dependency inherited from a mother battling addiction – or are regularly drugged to draw sympathy to their parents’ state of mendicancy.

There are 20,000 homeless people in Tehran, among whom 3,000 are women, according to the municipality. The women are elusive and stay hidden, particular after pregnancy. Often, they are also unaware of being infected with HIV and their babies are at risk.

The current figure for substance abuse in the country is nearly two million with 10% comprising women, mostly in the childbearing age. Additionally, the average age of drug abuse is reducing day by day, and has now reached 13-15 years.