According to a new study that focuses on the babies born to drug-addicted mothers, hospitals located in rural areas across the U.S. experience an increase in newborns suffering from opioid withdrawal at birth. The rise is mainly attributed to the widespread drug abuse among pregnant women.
The new findings suggest that the infants fall victim to the opioid epidemic currently ravaging across multiple U.S. communities. By being previously exposed to large doses of drugs such as heroin and a wide range of potent prescription painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, and Percocet in the womb, infants are born addicted to these substances. Officials say that pregnant mothers who live in rural areas are more susceptible to drug abuse than women living in urban regions.
According to the investigators’ findings, there has been registered an 80 percent rise in infant opioid withdrawal cases between 2004 to 2013 in rural U.S. communities.
“The magnitude of the difference between rural and urban areas was not expected”, says the lead author of the study, Dr. Nicole Villapiano with the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
Among the aforementioned highly addictive drugs, pregnant mothers have been also found to abuse fentanyl and morphine. According to the health officials, the risk of addiction can extend to the newborns if the mothers take opioid while carrying their babies.
The opioid withdrawal among infants is scientifically referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome. The list of dangers associated with exposing babies to drugs and prescription medicine also contains sleeping, breathing, and eating disorders, as well as developing a higher risk of seizures and experiencing learning difficulties later in life. Moreover, Dr. Villapiano says that the long-term effects of neonatal abstinence syndrome still elude medical understanding.
Previous investigations into the matter reveal that in the past years, more specifically between 2000 and 2012, the rates of opioid abuse among pregnant women increased fivefold. In order to compare the geographic differences, a team of researchers analyzed hospital discharge information gathered from multiple health facilities between 2004 and 2013 across the U.S. The data suggests that while neonatal abstinence syndrome cases revolved around 13 percent in 2003, the figure rose to 21 percent ten years later in rural U.S. communities. At the same time, infant opioid withdrawal cases doubled in urban areas, with five newborns out of 1,000 suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome in 2013, as opposed to two out of 1,000 deliveries.
Image Source: Pixnio