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U.S. Sees Tripling of Babies Born Addicted to Painkillers
Date:5/1/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- About one baby an hour is born addicted to powerful painkillers called opiates in the United States, a new study shows.

The number of infants born with a drug withdrawal syndrome called neonatal abstinence syndrome tripled between 2000 and 2009, jumping to more than 13,000, according to a study published online April 30 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

At the same time, use of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) by mothers-to-be increased fivefold, the researchers noted.

"This is becoming a big problem and affecting newborns at an alarmingly high and increasing rate," said study author Dr. Stephen W. Patrick, a fellow in the University of Michigan's division of neonatal-perinatal medicine in Ann Arbor.

Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome tend to be irritable, have heightened muscle tone (hypertonia), tremors, feeding intolerance, seizures and breathing difficulty. They also are more likely than others to be born at a low birth weight. Although other drugs can lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome, prescription painkillers are the usual cause, the study said.

The syndrome was most common among babies born in poor areas and covered by Medicaid, the researchers said.

For the study, researchers looked at national hospital discharge data for the years 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009.

In 2009, they found that 13,539 newborns were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The rate had jumped threefold -- from 1.20 per 1,000 hospital births in 2000 to 3.39 per 1,000 hospital births.

About 16 percent of pregnant teens and 7 percent of pregnant women aged 18 to 25 use illicit drugs, according to information cited in the report. Whereas opioid use was established in 1.19 of every 1,000 hospital births in 2000, it was implicated in 5.63 of every 1,000 hospital births by 2009, this st
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