Painkiller use during pregnancy has increased considerably in the last decade, and so has the rate of drug withdrawal in newborns according to the latest research. In the USA alone it is estimated that between 14% and 22% of pregnant women will be prescribed some type of opoid painkiller during pregnancy, and the increase in the abuse of these drugs by pregnant women has also increased in an alarming amount. Since newborns may not display any withdrawal signs until after they are released from the hospital this can cause serious or even life threatening medical problems for the infant. According to Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “The steep increase in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the United States has been associated with a parallel rise in their misuse, fatal overdoses and heroin use. More recently, attention has been focused on the large increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.”
The increase in painkiller use during pregnancy and drug withdrawal in newborns is a big cause for concern. The link between this type of substance use or abuse during pregnancy and problems in the newborn infant are proven. According to Dr. Volkow “high prescribing rates of opioids to women during pregnancy have probably contributed to recent increases in neonatal abstinence syndrome.” Physicians are being urged to avoid opioid pain medications in pregnant women unless the women have severe pain that can not be alleviated using any other non opioid treatment measures. If these drugs must be given to a pregnant woman for pain management then close monitoring and supervision of the pregnant woman and the newborn infant should be undertaken.