"Rise in babies born addicted to drugs"
During the crack crisis, myths about "crack babies" caused serious harm to women, especially women of color. The truth is, there are no "addicted babies." Newborns exposed to opioids and other drugs in the womb can be born "dependent" and receive a diagnosis for "neonatal abstinence syndrome," an acute, treatable condition. Inflating the risks of NAS has consequences that harm women and prevent help seeking.
Numerous news articles covering the overdose crisis have invoked the term "addicted baby" to describe Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (also called NAS), a condition caused when newborns withdraw from certain drugs they were exposed to in the womb before birth.
The Tired Narrative:
The Informed Narrative:
To avoid reporting scientifically inaccurate information and stigmatizing language about NAS, journalists can use phrases such as, "newborns exposed to opioids in the womb/during pregnancy," "born dependent," "experienced withdrawal symptoms," or "diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome."
Addiction is defined as the repeated use of a substance despite negative consequences. Newborns, by definition, cannot be "addicted" to anything. They can be born dependent on whatever substances their mother was taking during the pregnancy. This condition is not specific to opioids.