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Substance Abuse

Study Shows Increase in Drug Withdrawals Among US Newborns

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A study that once again emphasizes the issues posed by prescription drug abuse shows that the rate at which babies in the United States is born with symptoms of late opium withdrawal has tripled, from 2000 to 2009. Having a baby born with these symptoms is indicative of maternal drug abuse.

In addition, the researchers determined that the number of new mothers who tested positive for opiates increased five times during the same time period. These opiates include such medication and street drugs as OxyContin, Dilaudid, codeine, morphine, heroin, methadone, and others.

It was also found that one baby with signs of opiate drug withdrawal is born every hour in the United States.

The study involved an analysis of records from more than 4,000 hospitals across the United States. The data showed that the rate of infants born with symptoms of opiate withdrawal increased from one in 1,000 in 2000 to three in 1,000 in 2009. All told, this is about 13,500 newborns in 2009 alone.

Experts said that newborn babies who show signs of drug withdrawal are born earlier than average, and have a higher risk for breathing problems and seizures. They also need to be treated and monitored carefully to wean them off drugs, before they can be sent home.

Dr Stephen Patrick of the University of Michigan, who worked on the study, shared: “This study is part of a bigger call to the fact that opiates are becoming a big problem in this country.”