Alarming statistics are in, showing a sharp rise in the number of babies being born addicted to opiates. The youngest victims of the prescription painkiller epidemic are the infants born every day, dependent upon drugs such as OxyContin and other opiates.
In fact, about one baby is born this way every hour in the U.S., according to The Journal of The American Medical Association. The association published results from a study showing the number of infants born in opiate withdrawal (neonatal abstinence syndrome) tripled between 2000 and 2009, topping more than 13,000.
The author of the study is Dr. Stephen W. Patrick, of the University of Michigan’s division of neonatal-perinatal medicine, Ann Arbor. The findings, according to Dr. Patrick, are problematic and neonatal abstinence syndrome affects infants at “an alarmingly high and increasing rate,” he said.
The Cost Of Prescription Painkiller Use Extends Beyond Money
The increases noted in the study mirror the exploding rates of opiate abuse, opiate addiction and opiate overdose happening in communities across the country. High-powered opiates provide relief for many people suffering from chronic pain and other conditions, but critics say these drugs are often over prescribed. The presence
of opiates on the black market is fueled by diversion, pharmacy and personal theft and prescription fraud.During that same time period, the study found a five-fold increase in the number of pregnant women who use opiates such as OxyContin – some legally and some not. Experts are calling for more education and preventative measures to reverse this disturbing trend in opiate use.
Babies who are born dependent upon opiates can suffer a great deal, and the study shows the average length of stay in the hospital for them is 16 days. The cost of this has also grown out of control. The cost for this treatment, the study says, has increased 35 percent during the study – from $39,400 in 2000 to $53,400 in 2009.
Opiate Withdrawal Among Newborns Is A Painful, Stressful Time
The pain and discomfort felt by newborns going through withdrawal can cause a high-pitched cry that goes on and on for hours. Many of these babies are treated in the ICU with opiate replacement medications to help them wean safely. During this time, they may be extremely stressed and inconsolable, possibly suffering from breathing, sleeping and feeding problems.
Other signs of infant withdrawal from opiates include:
- Low birth weight
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Stuffy nose
Some medical experts question what will happen to these babies down the road and whether they will suffer long-term consequences such as brain damage, behavioral problems and issues with addiction.