Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Rise in opioid use leading to more babies born addicted to drugs; few hospitals are prepared

A rise in opioid use, especially in rural areas, is leading to a growing number of babies born addicted to drugs, something many hospitals are not prepared to handle, reports Stateline. Eight years ago, most hospitals typically only saw one or two cases a year of neonatal abstinence syndrome; now, every 25 minutes a baby is born is suffering from opioid withdrawal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (Stateline graphic: A rise in babies born addicted to opioids is leading to higher hospital costs)
"When a pregnant woman uses drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, some of the substances pass through the placenta to the baby," Stateline notes. "In many but not all cases, exposure to opioids, alcohol and other drugs during pregnancy can cause the fetus to develop physical drug dependence. When the umbilical cord is cut at birth, the newborn is abruptly disconnected from its supply of drugs and can suffer withdrawal symptoms, much like adults do. Symptoms include excessive crying, sleep problems, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures and muscle cramps."

Treatment—gradually tapered doses of either morphine or methadone over three to six weeks—is simple and effective, but costly, reports Stateline. "The cost of caring for a drug exposed newborn in a hospital is nearly 20 times the cost of hospital care for a healthy infant."

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