In the USA the rate of newborn infants who are suffering from opiate addiction has tripled in the last 10 years, and this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Statistics show that in the country there is 1 baby born every single hour who is severely addicted to opiates because of drug use by the mother during pregnancy. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study looking at this trend. The study also shows that the rate of Oxycontin and other opiate prescription medications given to expectant moms has multiplied 5 times during the 10 years examined. The author of the study Dr. Stephen W. Patrick, who is a fellow working in the University of Michigan neonatal-perinatal medicine department, commented “This is becoming a big problem and affecting newborns at an alarmingly high and increasing rate.”
Opiate addiction in newborns causes neonatal abstinence syndrome from the withdrawals. These babies exhibit many symptoms and often suffer extreme distress and severe discomfort. Irritability, seizures, difficulty breathing, hypertonia, an intolerance for feeding, tremors, and skin sensitivity are all problems experienced by babies who are born with an opiate addiction. Substance abuse treatment is needed before pregnancy starts, and many physicians need to re-evaluate the risks of prescribing opiates versus the possible risks of not managing pain properly. Some medical conditions do require strong drugs, but during pregnancy the use of these medications often lead to opiate addiction in the newborn. Everyone in society pays the cost when infants are born with an addiction and experience withdrawals, and the average hospital costs for these high need infants is more than $53,000.