TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Once you see a newborn baby addicted to drugs, it changes your life.
Those were the words of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday as she vowed to do everything in her power to put an end to the epidemic of babies born addicted to painkillers.
Bondi led the first meeting of Florida's new Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns.
It was an organizational meeting in Tallahassee setting the stage for the group to study the scope of the problem, gauge the medical costs for treating addicted babies and develop ideas to prevent withdrawal syndrome among newborns.
The symptoms are agonizing and can include fever, seizures, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sounds.
Mindy Young of St. Joseph's Women's Hospital in Tampa told panel members the story of a newborn she called Michael.
His mother took prescription pain killers during her pregnancy. She thought they were OK because they were prescribed by her doctor. Then she and her husband were shocked to discover Michael had acute oxycodone withdrawal when he was born.
Young described Michael's first few weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"Michael wouldn't eat. He rubbed his skin until it was raw. His limbs were stiff. He would not sleep more than one to two hours all day and night. He had terrible diarrhea that got worse and then there were his shrill cries piercing through the unit. Holding Michael didn't help.
"The gentle rocking that comforts most babies only makes Michael more agitated. That's because they were not the cries of a normal newborn. These were the cries of a baby who couldn't tolerate movement, light or stimulation as is normal for most newborns. Michael was in a state of constant pain."
Bondi was joined at the meeting by U.S. Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske. She said she intends to make Florida the model for the nation on how to stop this abuse of newborns.
"We're going to do everything in our power to stop this epidemic and it's not an epidemic in Florida. It's throughout our country and that's what I've talked to Director Kerlikowske about multiple times because he's told me it's a tremendous problem in Washington State and all over the country."
Kerlikowske said the prescription drug epidemic has taken the lives of too many Americans.
"All of us can take steps to address this challenge and this new task force serves as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing the prescription drug abuse threat in America."
Members of the task force include:
-Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
-State Surgeon General Dr. Steven L. Harris
-Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey
-Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudak
-Department of Children & Families Secretary David Wilkins
-Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos
-March of Dimes Assistant State Director Keith Nash
-Dr. Robert Yelverton
-Pediatrix Medical Group Medical Director Dr. Kenneth Solomon
-Florida Nurses Association Executive Director Willa Fuller
-Dr. David Dixon
-Senator Joe Negron
-Representative Dana Young
-BayCare Behavioral Health Executive Director Doug Leonardo
-Healthy Start Executive Director Jane Murphy
First Coast News