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Interviews with news makers and discussion of topics important to Southwest Michigan. Subscribe to the podcast through Apple itunes and Google. Segments of interview are heard in WestSouthwest Brief during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

WSW: A Problem Coming From "Our Medicine Cabinets"

Susan Andress, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave

Billboards around the Kalamazoo area carry the message that whatever a pregnant woman takes, her baby will take as well. It's part of a new effort to address the problem of opioids in the womb. 

Several Kalamazoo area organizations, including the Learning Network of Kalamazoo are working to raise awareness about what drugs, including prescription pain killers, can do to pregnant women and their unborn children.

Bronson Neonatologist Robin Pierucci says the growing problem can be linked to the rise in prescription drugs, including opioids which are found in painkillers. Withdrawal from those drugs can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome for the fetus. That can include seizures in the womb. There have been many efforts over the years encouraging women to refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy. But Pierucci says the problem posed by opioids has flown under the radar.

Interview with Robin Pierucci and Diane Shaffer - web version

Pierucci says the problem is growing in part because of the rise in prescription drugs, including pain killers. She says opioids found in those medications are similar to heroin, and could have the same effect. 

Diane Shaffer with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services says neonatal abstinence syndrome makes the issue complex. She says pregnant women are told stop smoking or drinking alcohol right away. But Shaffer who serves as Program Manager of Services for Youth and Families says with opioids if women stop right away, the fetus may go into withdrawal. 

As part of the effort to prevent neonatal abstinence syndrome, and treat pregnant women and unborn babies, Shaffer says a new pilot program has been launched. It screens women for alcohol and drug use, tobacco, depression and domestic violence. Shaffer says that can help families get the services and best care for a healthy delivery and a good start to life. 

Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.
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