Bubbly and athletic, Heather Padgett, raised in a loving family in the Cincinnati suburbs, would not fit the stereotype of a heroin addict.
But the 28-year-old former administrative assistant’s addiction was so bad, she used heroin while pregnant. Her twin girls were born nine months ago while she was in treatment, and they suffered tremors from withdrawal.
“I never thought I’d be pregnant and using drugs,” Padgett said. Until she got clean last August, she was part of what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called a heroin epidemic – a 100 percent rise in heroin addiction among Americans between 2002 and 2013.
The sharp rise in heroin addiction, coupled with the risks of newborns developing withdrawal symptoms after they are sent home, has led a group of Cincinnati hospitals to try what they say is the first program of its kind in the United States: testing all mothers, or their infants, for opiates regardless of background, not just those who seem high-risk.