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

udy found.

The hospital stay for these drug-exposed newborns averaged 16 days, and the cost increased 35 percent -- from $39,400 in 2000 to $53,400 in 2009.

The financial piece provides "added incentive to bolster programs at state levels and prevent this before it happens," Patrick said.

"We also need to think about how we can care for these babies who are going through withdrawal, minimize their symptoms and get them home quicker," he added.

Journal publication of the study is slated to coincide with its presentation Monday at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting in Boston.

Dr. Marie J. Hayes, a professor at the University of Maine in Orono and co-author of an accompanying journal editorial, said the race is on to find ways to treat and care for these infants. "This is not only an epidemic that continues to grow, but the treatment is not well-developed and the babies are suffering a lot," she said. "There may also be long-term consequences to brain development."

Opioids are highly addictive, she said. "Once dependent, people are dependent for a long time. It is difficult to treat," she said. "The mothers are the environment for the baby, so if we want to protect the baby, we have to go through mothers."

Another expert said the the study speaks to the prevalence of prescription drug abuse and the need for prevention.

Christopher Sturiano, an assistant professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College and administrative director of Midtown Center for Treatment and Research in New York City, said he often sees the mothers during their postpartum period. But "we need to identify and try to prevent this before or during pregnancy as opposed to after the fact," he said.

There are options. "We can tailor opiate replacement therapies to pregnant women to protect the baby," Sturiano said.

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