High Rate of Babies Born Addicted to Opiates in U.S.

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According to a new study completed by the University of Michigan physicians, close to one baby is born addicted to opiates each hour in the United States. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study also found newborns diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome, which is drug withdrawal syndrome, almost tripled between 2000 and 2009.

In 2009 the estimated number of newborns with the drug withdrawal syndrome was 13,539 which comes out to roughly one baby born each hour. Researchers at the University of Michigan believe this is the first study to assess national trends in mothers using opiate drugs and babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Opiates include popular prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin. Interestingly, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published a report which showed that sales for these two drugs have quadrupled over the last decade.

While the current University of Michigan study did not identify which opiates were used during pregnancy, the fact that sales for OxyContin and Vicodin have increased so dramatically suggests that a correlation between their sale and use of opiates by pregnant women is not unlikely. The University of Michigan study found that the number of pregnant women using opiates increased 5 times over the last decade.

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome include increased irritability, heightened muscle tone, hypertonia, tremors, seizures, respiratory distress and intolerance to feeding. Babies are also at risk for low birth weight.

Treating pregnant women, who are also drug users, if viewed as a public health issue, can help women get the treatment they need to break their addiction and have healthier babies.

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