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Helpless & Hooked: A first-hand account of babies born dependent on drugs

Posted at 10:00 PM, Jul 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-07 06:21:51-04

If you're a parent, then you know there are no words to describe the love the first time you hold your baby.  But imagine being so high you can't even care for your own child.

Fox 4 is revealing the depth of a troubling trend in Southwest Florida of babies born addicted to drugs.

Four in Your Corner's Stephanie Tinoco talked to mother of one of those babies.

"I was totally and completely hostage to my drugs, whatever the drugs told me to do, I did."  A prisoner of a lethal war; no ransom for her freedom.  It's still painful for Janette to share her story, but taking a deep breath, she starts from the beginning.

Janette found out she was pregnant at 6 months.  Two months later she went to the doctor.  "They did tell me if you stop doing heroin now, you'll kill the baby."

Janette kept feeding her addiction, hoping to end her life.  "I started feeling pains, and I kinda knew in the back of my head what the pains were...contractions.  But I didn't want to stop using drugs."

Contractions weren't enough to stop her.  Neither was her 2-year-old daughter who was with her in the house.  "I thought if I did enough drugs and I took enough pills, the pain would go away."

But the pain would only get stronger.

More than 20 million people in the United States live with a drug addiction.  Janette used to be one of them.

"In Lee County, it's certainly a growing problem," says Brandon Short with White Sands Treatment Center in Fort Myers.

Janette battled with this addiction for years.  Coming from an abusive childhood, drugs were the only way she knew to numb her pain, even through her daughter's birth.  "When I went to the bathroom and I pushed -- I pushed to use the bathroom, not to push a baby out -- the head came out.  So at that point I said 'this is happening.'"

With no phone to dial for help, she gave birth in the attic of a meth house.  "I cut the umbilical cord, I tied the umbilical cord on the baby.  Don't ask me how I remember or even knew how to do any of these stuff.  That's why I totally believe, wholeheartedly believe, that God was there with me...because that's the only way."

Taking hits and sips in between to help numb the pain.  "Next thing I know they're busting down the door and its my friend with the cops and the ambulance.  And I didn't remember everything until I got to the hospital."

Her first moments of life with her daughter are filled with memories of DCF at her bedside, telling her she's lost all her parental rights.  "They told me I had lost all three of my children, and the only way I can get them back is if I went into rehab."

"What we've seen in Lee County is a steady growth in instances of babies admitted for drug withdrawal."  Dr. William Liu with Lee Memorial Hospital says the problem has exploded since 2005.  "From 2005 to probably 2010 we've seen about a 700, 800 percent increase in our admission rate for Neonatal abstinence syndrome."

This syndrome, known as NAS for short, since then has gone up about 50 percent in Lee County.  Just in the last year more than a 120 babies were born hooked and helpless.

"The problem seems to be reemerging even at a more significant level."

"Those moments of holding her in my arms and seeing everything she went through...I'll never forget it, I'll never forget it.  She'll never remember, but I always will," says Janette.

Janette has been clean since 1999 and her daughter is okay.