Newborns Taken Away From Addicted Mothers

Only babies of homeless mothers are not released after detoxification. They remain under the protection of SWO, charity institutions, or their relatives until their parents find a suitable place to live
During the first nine months of the last fiscal year 384 newborns were diagnosed in hospitals as drug-dependent.
During the first nine months of the last fiscal year 384 newborns were diagnosed in hospitals as drug-dependent.

During the first nine months of the last fiscal year (ended March 20), 780 infants and children across the country were diagnosed in hospitals as drug-dependent, said Hussein Asad Beigi head of Social Emergency Center at the Social Welfare Organization (SWO) last week.

“Of those, 384 were addicted to drugs and were taken away at birth from their substance-addicted mothers and given detoxification treatment,” ISNA quoted him as saying.

The provinces of Tehran, Kerman, Kermanshah, and South Khorasan, had the highest number of drug dependant newborns.  

“Among the babies taken from their mothers at birth, 281 were handed over to welfare centers and 13 died shortly after birth,” he said.

“Substance abuse plus other problems such as poor nutrition and hygiene, as well as social deprivation of mothers were among the main reasons that cut short the lives of the neonates.”  Rest of the babies were released into the custody of close relatives.

During the 9-month period 396 children were transferred to hospitals due to health complications after regularly ingesting methadone given to them by their drug addicted parents.

Their parents claimed they have given the opioid medication to their children and babies to calm them or sooth their pains, who also received detoxification treatment, Asad Beigi said.

  Better Late Than Never

In June 2016, the SWO and Health Ministry joined forces to devise and implement a protocol where all hospitals in the country were obliged not to release abused children and infants addicted to drugs from birth to their parents even after recovery.

The move came following a tragic incident in which a four-month old girl ‘Roya’, passed away at one of Tehran’s hospitals due to substance intoxication.

As a first step, some of the important maternity centers and hospitals in Tehran such as Akbar-Abadi Hospital in Mowlavi St. and Mahdiyeh Hospital in Shush, both in the downtown working districts, were mandated to identify such babies.

Hospitals were urged to contact the Social Emergency Center hotline ‘123’ or the Law Enforcement Forces number ‘110’ to get clearance before releasing an addicted or abused child.

The SWO official pointed to the legal vacuum regarding full protection of the babies and said, “Most of the babies cannot be kept under protection of SWO permanently or for long periods, as in most cases we have to release them when their parents go to court to get back custody of their children.”

Earlier, Mohammad Hadi Ayazi, social deputy at the Health Ministry had said that the newborns should ideally be kept at welfare centers until their mothers beat the addiction. 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 SWO, charity institutions, or their relatives until their parents find a suitable place to live,” he said.

Though the treatment, which is being offered since last year to newborns in some state-run hospitals, can reduce the suffering of infants from pain and death, stricter laws are needed to prevent child abuse. What is really dangerous for the babies (other than being addicted to drugs) is being sent home to families unable or unwilling to care for them.

One positive side of the new SWO policy is that it prevents the sale of babies by homeless mothers addicted to illegal drugs, as most of the homeless mothers sell their babies to get their next fix.

  Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Babies born to addicted mothers will be physically dependent on drugs as they suffer from ‘Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome’ after birth.

Addicted babies cry in pain for hours, suffer tremors, respiratory problems and have low birth weight. 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.

A large number of children become dependent on opioids from birth since their mothers, who are mostly poor, homeless and drug addicts.

While a woman is pregnant, any substance she ingests goes through the placenta and to the developing fetus. When the mother-to-be uses a harmful substance, it goes to her baby through the placenta and there is no filter to keep out the drugs. If the mother gets hooked, so does her baby.

There are more than 42,000 homeless people in country among whom, 15,000 are in Tehran Province, according to the Iran Drug Control Headquarters.

On March 7 Fatemeh Daneshvar, a member of Tehran City Council (TCC) said more than 2,000 homeless women are living in the capital.

The current figure for substance abuse in the country is nearly two million with 10% comprising women mostly in childbearing age. As the addiction to narcotics worsens despite the best efforts of the government and NGOs, the average age of drug abuse is declining rapidly. Reports say the age has now reached 13-15 years.

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