About One Baby Born Each Hour Addicted to Opiate Drugs in U.S., U-M Study Shows

About one baby is born every hour addicted to opiate drugs in the United States, according to new research from University of Michigan (U-M) physicians.

In the research published April 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, U-M physicians found that diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome, a drug withdrawal syndrome among newborns, almost tripled between 2000 and 2009.

By 2009, the estimated number of newborns with the syndrome was 13,539 – or about one baby born each hour, according to the study that U-M researchers believe is the first to assess national trends in neonatal abstinence syndrome and mothers using opiate drugs.

“Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report which found that over the last decade sales for opiate pain relievers like OxyContin and Vicodin have quadrupled,” says Stephen W. Patrick, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., lead author of the study and a fellow in the University of Michigan’s Division of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine.

“Although our study was not able to distinguish the exact opiate used during pregnancy, we do know that the overall use of this class of drugs grew by 5-fold over the last decade and this appears to correspond with much higher rates of withdrawal in their infants.”

The majority of the mothers of babies born with the syndrome were covered by Medicaid for health care costs. The average hospital bill for babies with the syndrome increased from $39,400 in 2000 to $53,400 in 2009, a 35 percent increase. By 2009, 77.6 percent of charges for babies with the syndrome were charged to Medicaid.

Journal citation: doi:10.1001/JAMA.2012.3951.

Source: University of Michigan Health System – April 30, 2012

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