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Alarming! Rate of Opioid-Dependent Infants Rises

Sep 29, 2016 04:38 AM EDT
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The rate of infants that are opiod-dependent is alarmingly increasing, according to a new study.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a condition wherein an infant experiences withdrawal symptoms that are caused by their exposure to opioids while in the womb, that include prescription opioids or heroin. Cases of infants inflicted by this syndrome doubled from 2.8 cases per 1,000 births in 2008 to 7.3 cases per 1,000 births in 2014. In the U.S., there are 27,315 babies that have neonatal abstinence syndrome in 2013.

According to the new study published in JAMA Pediatrics, the researchers' cross-sectional analysis compared the rates of neonatal abstinence of U.S. and of Kentucky, a state in U.S. that has a high rate of the syndrome. The said state even surpassed the U.S. overall rates and reportedly increased from 5.0 cases of neonatal abstinence per 1,000 births in 2008 to 21.2 cases per 1,000 births in 2014.

The reason behind such a high rate of opioid-dependent infants is Kentucky's notorious record of high rate of opioid abuse, according to the said study conducted by the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. A separate study by the Vanderbilt University in Tennessee also showed a five-fold increase since 2000.

According to the National Institutes of Health, babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome have symptoms such as fever, sleep problems, excessive crying, poor feeding, seizures, tremors, blotchy skin coloring and rapid breathing.

In an effort to stop the continuous trend of neonatal abstinence syndrome, the U.S. government passed a law called Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, Live Science reported. This law obliged the Department of Health and Human Services to perform a study about neonatal abstinence syndrome and create recommendations for prevention and treatment of the condition. Despite its intention, the researchers said that the law doesn't provide answers to help with the problem in the short term.

The researchers also said that creating ways to address opioid use in pregnant women or women of childbearing age due to "tremendous burden" of neonatal abstinence syndrome and should be prioritized by the national and state drug efforts.

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