Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Smallest Victims
By now most of us are aware of the pain clinics in South Florida that are drawing people from all over the country looking for drugs, but you may not be aware of the smallest victims. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case with their stories of addiction and abuse.
WSVN -- This is the intensive care unit for newborn babies at Joe Dimaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood.
Among the normal cries are the higher pitched wails of babies born addicted to prescription pain pills.
Dr. Lester McIntyre, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital: "Over the past three years, at this institution at least, we have seen a steady increase in the number of babies admitted with withdrawal symptoms from narcotics."
Seven News first documented the explosion of pain clinics in Broward County in 2008. They're still here today, drawing addicts from Florida and other states. Clinic customers use abuse and sell the powerful pain pills with disastrous results not only for themselves, but for their unborn children.
Dr. McIntyre: "Most of these babies tend to require medication to control their symptoms and the duration of their hospital stay can sometimes be as long as two to three months."
Dr. Lester Mcintyre says symptoms range from sneezing to tremors that can lead to seizures.
Janet Colbert, Protesting Nurse: "We want them all closed. They serve no legitimate purpose. They cater to drug addicts and that's all."
Janet Colbert works with these infants. She's seen so much suffering she started staging protests in front of pain clinics.
Janet Colbert: "They are screaming in agony. We are trying to give them morphine every three hours to help them through this torture of withdrawal."
But, babies aren't the only ones paying a price. Seven News has documented parents leaving youngsters alone outside pain clinics while they go inside for drugs and now, addiction to prescription pain pills is being blamed for child abuse in older children.
Dr. John Wright, Broward Child Protection Team: "I've seen children who are really tortured psychologically by their mother's prescription drug use."
Dr. John Wright is the medical director for Broward's Child Protection team. He says about one third of the 13,000 child abuse cases reported last year in Broward involved prescription drug abuse.
Dr. Wright says parents high on pills don't take care of their children or watch them and when parents don't get those drugs it can become very dangerous for children of all ages.
Dr. John Wright: "But they invariably run out of drugs and then they become very violent and testy. So yeah, we see a lot of physical abuse and you know we have recent cases of cigarette burns and the mother just disappears, I mean, it's so sad."
So in our hospitals and in our child care facilities, it is up to strangers to comfort and care for the smallest victims of the pain pill epidemic.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: