Prescription Addictions: A Growing Threat To Newborns

Prescription Addictions: A Growing Threat To Newborns

In recent years, the number of babies born addicted to drugs has increased.   The surprise, however, is that more and more of these babies are born addicted to prescription drugs.  Addictions to prescription-strength opiates, such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, are a new threat to newborns.

When babies are born addicted to drugs at birth it’s referred to as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  Between the years 2000-2009, the number of pregnant women in the U.S. who were using prescription opiates increased five times.

Consequently, the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome tripled during that same time period.   A recent study by the American Journal of Medicine estimates that about 13,500 babies each year are born in the U.S. with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Babies who are born addicted to any kind of drug experience a painful and unsettling introduction to the world.  They begin experiencing symptoms of withdrawal soon after birth.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, withdrawal symptoms in newborns can last for days, weeks, or even months.  Symptoms can include uncontrollable tremors, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, sweating, poor eating, and ineffective sucking, among others.  It’s difficult to comfort these newborns as they go through withdrawal as the overstimulation of touch and bright lights can also agitate them.

When babies are born addicted to drugs at birth it’s referred to as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.  Between the years 2000-2009, the number of pregnant women in the U.S. who were using prescription opiates increased five times.   Consequently, the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome tripled during that same time period.   A recent study by the American Journal of Medicine estimates that about 13,500 babies each year are born in the U.S. with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.

Babies suffering from withdrawal can be in the hospital for several weeks as caregivers attempt to ease their suffering while weaning the babies off their addictions.   Because opiate addiction in newborns is a fairly new problem, there is no prescribed standard of care for treating these newborns.

Hospital stays for these babies are expensive since the stays are usually long and most of the care is provided in the neonatal intensive care unit.   Weaning a baby with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome can cost an average of $50,000.  Because these babies remain in the neonatal ICU, costs increase dramatically the longer they stay in the hospital.

No one knows what the physical, mental, or emotional long-term effects of addiction will be on babies as they grow up.   The future for these babies is uncertain.

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