America’s opioid problem has been worsening by the year, with the drug overdose deaths rising rapidly. It has spared no section of the society, not even the newborns. What was initially designed to control pain has itself turned into a massive pain for the nation, making millions dependent on it, some willingly and some unwillingly. Studies have revealed how hospitals across the United States are witness to thousands of babies suffering from the deadly opiate dependence.
As an increasing number of women of childbearing age suffers from addiction to prescription painkillers each year, the nation has also been experiencing a rise in the number of its children born with serious problems like neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Physicians describe NAS as a set of symptoms exhibited by newborns exposed to the effects of opioid medications or opiates, during their mothers’ gestation period.
According to a report, titled “The Problem of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,” the number of babies exposed to the effects of drugs in their mothers’ wombs has increased four times. As per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in August 2016, the number of infants affected with NAS across various American counties had exceeded the national average by roughly eight times.
NAS not a mere medical problem
The number of infants born with NAS is soaring to the extent that some hospitals in the U.S. have dedicated a separate ward for treatment of the affected babies. This also mirrors the prevalence of misuse and abuse of opioids by American women even during their pregnancy, unmindful of its effects on their unborn babies.
The magnitude of the problem can be understood from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) — Incidence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – 28 States, 1999-2013 — that indicates a rise in the overall NAS incidence by 300 percent from 1999 to 2013. In 2013 alone, there were six NAS cases out of 1,000 births in the country. Considering that not all states are involved in regular collection and collation of necessary data, the number of NAS cases is expected to be much more than what is recorded by federal agencies.
A comprehensive research into the roots of the NAS problem reveals how it begins with unbridled opioid use by women belonging to rural areas. A study of increasing number of NAS babies born with dependence on drugs and showing withdrawal symptoms was documented by a group of researchers in their study titled “Rural and Urban Differences in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and Maternal Opioid Use, 2004 to 2013.”
The research showed the number of newborns afflicted with chemical dependency more when compared with the number of affected children born in urban areas. The study authors observed how rural communities throughout the nation were particularly affected by the NAS problem than the urban societies.
Prolonged effects of NAS and recovery
The treatment of NAS babies are not limited to hospitals only. Even after being discharged from the hospital, some babies may still need to be treated with medicines and physical therapies. The effects of NAS are not limited to infancy stage. A study titled “Prenatal Substance Abuse: Short- and Long-term Effects on the Exposed Fetus” shows the prolonged impact of NAS on infants if not treated properly. The study authors state how children born with NAS may experience developmental delays or suffer from attention problems in their lives later.
Sovereign Health understands the plight of dependent people seeking treatment for addiction, but unable to avail it. We make the treatment accessible and effective. Tailored recovery programs at our addiction treatment center in El Paso help treat each patient holistically. If you or your loved one is battling an addiction to any kind of drug, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our state-of-the-art addiction rehabilitation.
Get the latest news on program developments, behavioral health news and company announcements