Pregnant heroin addicts seek treatment at Pittsburgh program

PITTSBURGH-- When pregnant women are heroin addicts,there babies are too. A program at a Pittsburgh hospital is trying to help those women.

Chelsea Blackburn, 25, was still using heroin last June when she found out she was pregnant again.

"I started on opiates, like, pain pills and then by 19, I was like, a full-blown heroin addict," she said.

What was that like?

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Twenty-five-year-old Chelsea Blackburn.

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"It was just terrible," she said. "I didn't take care of myself. I didn't take care of my kids. I lost custody of both of them."

She decided to get help from the Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which started the Pregnancy Recovery Center in 2014. The hospital had been inundated with pregnant heroin addicts -- 350 in 2012 alone.

"What we were seeing was an ever-increased number of patients who were addicted to opioids coming here to deliver," said program director Dr. Dennis English. "And we saw these numbers increasing every year."

It's an outpatient program and women are gradually tapered off heroin with a drug called Buprenorphine. It satisfies the craving for opioids without causing a high.

Women take the drug at home and are required to get drug-tested every two weeks.

They also receive counseling and medical care throughout their pregnancy. So far, more than 130 women have been admitted to the program and 60 percent have made it through.

Lindsay Duggan, 27, completed the program in 2014 while pregnant with twins and remains clean.

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Lindsay Duggan, 27.

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"You know, you're proud of yourself, but you're also hesitant because you gotta stay on top of it," she said. "You don't wanna get too confident because that's when it creeps back in. I mean, every day, it's a tango with addiction."

Without this treatment, up to 80 percent of babies of opiate users have withdrawal symptoms when they're born. Through this program, about two-thirds of the babies born are not addicted.