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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Problems From Opioids in Pregnancy Has Soared In Recent Years

The number of infants born with opioid withdrawal symptoms, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, has increased dramatically in recent years, with the costs associated with the treatment nearly doubling between 2012 and 2016.

The nationwide opioid abuse crisis in the United States over the past decade has not only resulted in overdoses and other injuries for users of the powerful painkillers, but have also had a dramatic effect on a number of children exposed to the opioids before they were born.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is the name of a condition occurring among infants exposed to opioids during pregnancy, which can result from normal use of the medications, or opioid abuse by the pregnant mother, causing the infants to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

In a study published this month in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers indicate that the rates of NAS in the United States have increased from about 1.5 per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 8 per 1,000 hospital births in 2014.

The findings also indicate that hospital costs associated with treating neonatal abstinence syndrome problems from opioids in pregnancy has rose from $316 million in 2012 to $572.7 million in 2016, highlighting the increasing opioid epidemic over the four year period.

Infants with NAS spent an average of 16 days in the hospital at an average of $22,550 per day, and a similar CDC study published in 2016 warned the number of infants with opioid withdrawal syndrome had increased more than 300%.

Opioid use during pregnancy is linked to serious consequences for both mother and child. It can cause maternal death and increases the risk of a mother overdosing. It can also increase the risk of preterm birth, lead to breathing problems and feeding problems, cause birth defects, cause developmental problems to the child later, and impair cognition.

An estimated 10.3 million Americans ages 12 and older misused opioids in 2018 and the crisis only seems to continue to worsen.

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