Utah Couple Gave Opioids To Newborn To Conceal Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
A couple from Elk Ridge, Utah has been arrested after allegedly giving drugs to their newborn in an attempt to reduce drug withdrawal symptoms and cover up the baby’s heroin addiction.
According to a press release:
“Wilde and Christenson told investigators they talked to friends about how to mask signs of drug dependence in an infant, and that they discussed this issue with each other.”
Colby Wilde, 29 and Lacey Christenson, 26, are facing felony charges as police allege that multiple informants reported that the pair were crushing up Suboxone or methadone, putting the drugs on their fingertips, and rubbing the drugs on their daughter’s gums, who was born April 9th.
Reports say that Christenson abused heroin and prescription drugs regularly throughout her pregnancy, and as a result, her daughter was also born addicted to drugs.
Police say that on June 26, the pair attempted to shoplift from a Walmart with all four children in tow, all under the age of 8. Wilde allegedly snagged merchadise in the store and took them up to customer service and attempted to exchange the items for a gift card.
As security officers tried to apprehend the man, in his haste he accidentally ran into the exit doors while holding the infant in her car seat, and inadvertently dropped her. He grabbed the car seat and once again made a run for it, but dropped her again as he ran into a pillar. He gave the baby in the car seat to a random person and took off.
Law enforcement blocked Wilde as he attempted to drive off, apprehended him, and charged him with driving without insurance, driving under the influence, child abuse, and possession of methamphetamine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia. Christensen was found inside the Walmart with her children, and she was taken into custody on an outstanding traffic warrant.
The pair placed bail, but they were arrested again after a team of narcotics agents searched their residence this month and found a large amount of narcotics and drug paraphernalia, some near the baby bassinet. They also walked in on Christensen smoking heroin.
When asked about their drug abuse, they admitted that they had been crushing up narcotics and giving them to their infant daughter since the day she was born – even in the hospital. When nurses were distracted, they administered crushed up Suboxone to their infant so that she wouldn’t reveal signs of drug withdrawal. Upon returning home, they continued to give the baby drugs.
The children were taken into custody by Family Services, who say that two younger boys tested positive for second-hand exposure to methamphetamines, and the baby tested positive for heroin and morphine, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
The oldest son’s biological father picked him up and offered to take the other children into his custody.
The two face charges of distributing a controlled substance in a drug-free zone (presumably the hospital), child endangerment, and possession of heroin, methamphetamine, and drug paraphernalia.
They are currently being held on bond.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon, Utah County Sheriff’s Office told KSTU:
“I don’t have any doubt that Colby and Lacy love their kids. They’re addicts right now with serious addiction problems, and they’re not in a good place to be taking care of themselves even, let alone anybody else.”
What Is Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome?
The Utah couple gave drugs to their infant in an attempt to avoid Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome or NAS. According to Medline, NAS is a collection of problems that occur in newborns who are exposed to opioids or opiate drugs in utero.
NAS can develop when a pregnant woman uses opioid or opiate drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, or methadone. Use of either prescription drugs or illicit street drugs can result in NAS. The condition occurs because these substances pass through the placenta, and the baby becomes addicted to the drugs just like the mother.
When the mother uses the drugs within a week or so before delivery, the baby will be born dependent.
When the infant no longer receives the drugs, he or she is likely to suffer from drug withdrawal symptoms, not unlike those experienced by babies exposed to alcohol and other addictive substances.
Infants born to mothers who use such substances may have long-term problems.
Symptoms may include:
- Blotchy skin coloring (mottling)
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Excessive crying and irritability
- Excessive sucking
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Increased muscle tone
- Poor feeding and slow weight gain
- Rapid breathing
- Sleep disturbances
- Stuffy nose and sneezing
- Trembling (tremors)
Using alcohol or drugs during pregnancy can result in many other health problems besides NAS, and include:
- Birth defects
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Small head circumference
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Problems with development and behavior
Babies born with NAS are often irritable and do better when held, swaddled, and rocked frequently.
Babies with severe symptoms may require medication or opioid replacement therapy such as methadone. The idea is to administer a drug similar to the one the mother used to help wean the baby off over a period of weeks or months. Also, severe symptoms may be treated with other depressants, such as phenobarbital.
Babies may also have severe diaper rash and need special ointment. Babies who are slow eaters maybe need higher calorie feedings and smaller portions given more frequently.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A. Psychology