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Opioid, Meth Use During Pregnancy On The Rise: Study

University of Michigan researchers warn that more and more women nationwide are giving birth to children while using opioids or amphetamines, raising concerns about a number of potential adverse health effects for women, as well as a risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome for unborn children. 

In a study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers indicate there have been increases in the number of women delivering babies while on opioids, or while addicted to meth, which is resulting in increased cases of preeclampsia, preterm delivery and the injury and deaths of women during childbirth.

Researchers analyzed data from the National Inpatient Sample from 2004 to 2015, looking at incidence of hospital deliveries linked to meth and opioid use, and clinical outcomes.

According to the findings, meth and opioid-related deliveries increased disproportionately in rural areas during that time period, but meth use during pregnancy was most prevalent, with amphetamine use accounting for 1% of all deliveries in the rural West by 2014 to 2015. The researchers also found that amphetamine deliveries were linked to higher rates of preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and severe maternal morbidity and mortality.

“Increasing incidence of amphetamine and opioid use among delivering women and associated adverse gestational outcomes indicate that amphetamine and opioid use affecting birth represent worsening public health crises,” the researchers concluded.

The study comes about two years after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first warned about increasing numbers of children born with opioid-induced neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) across the U.S.

That researched warned that cases of babies born addicted to opioids increased more than 300% from 1999 to 2013. The CDC warned that by 2013, there were six cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome for every 1,000 hospital births in the U.S.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a postnatal drug withdrawal syndrome that occurs primarily among infants after birth who were exposed to narcotic painkillers during pregnancy. While other drugs have been implicated in NAS, it is most often attributed to in utero opioid exposure.

NAS can result from maternal prescription opioid use, opioid abuse, and medication-assisted treatment. The most common opioids abused include OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and fentanyl, as well as other illicit opioids, such as heroin.

Last month, the CDC warned that drug overdose deaths, mainly due to opioids, and suicides were actually decreasing life expectancy nationwide.

In 2017, life expectancy declined to 78.6 years, with Americans expected to live one-tenth of a year less than they did in 2016. This marks the third year in a row the U.S. has seen a decrease.

This is the longest sustained decrease in life expectancy since the early 1900s, a time marked by World War I and a flu outbreak that killed more than 650,000 people in the United States.

More than 70,000 people died from drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2017. That rate is nearly 10% higher than 2016 and the highest increase in the U.S. for a single year. Comparatively, the number of drug overdose deaths in 1999 reached 17,000.

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