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Thursday, April 30, 2015

NAS Cases Have Almost Quadrupled

The prescription drug epidemic has had a far reaching effect on society, impacting millions of families - even the unborn. While it may seem like common knowledge that exposing developing babies to mind-altering substances is dangerous, there has been a dramatic rise in babies being born with opioids in their system, what’s known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). In fact, new research has found that over the last ten years, babies treated for NAS has almost quadrupled, HealthDay reports. The research was conducted by the Baylor University Medical Center.

When mothers expose their fetuses to prescription opioids, dependence develops. After the baby is born their supply to the drugs is cut off - withdrawal ensues. If left untreated the results can be dire, doctors need to slowly taper the infant off the narcotics.

The researchers found that NAS affected only seven babies for every 1,000 admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in 2004. In 2013, 27 infants for every 1,000 babies in the NICU were treated for NAS. In the same year, eight centers with NICUs reported that more than 20 percent of days were spent caring for babies with NAS, according to the article.

A previous study found that almost 28 percent, of more than 112,000 pregnant women in Tennessee, used at least one prescription opioid, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. The researchers found that mothers who smoked and/or used antidepressants increased their babies' risk of developing NAS.

"I was surprised by the number of women prescribed opioid pain relievers in pregnancy," said lead author Dr. Stephen Patrick, a neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. "I was also surprised by how commonly women smoked in pregnancy, and how much that increased the risk of neonatal abstinence syndrome among those who also used opioid pain relievers in pregnancy."

The first study's findings were published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The second study's findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

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