An increasing number of babies in the United States are starting their lives in a state of withdrawal, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers found that neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) a condition in which babies are addicted to the drugs their mothers may have used while pregnant has risen in the U.S. from 2.8 cases per 1,000 births six years ago, to 7.3 cases of NAS per 1,000 births in 2013.

In Ohio, a state particularly ravaged by the opioid crisis, the rate of NAS increased nearly tenfold from 14 per 10,000 births in 2004 to 134 per 10,000 births in 2014. The increase was closely correlated to the increase in hospitalization rates from drug abuse or dependence in mothers in the state, which grew from 103 per 10,000 discharges in 2004 to 310 per 10,000 in 2014.

The increase has also taken a toll on the state’s healthcare system; the average hospital charge associated with NAS has more than doubled from $26,465 to $56,111, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Clinical Nurse Specialist of Perinatal Outreach at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio, Gail A. Bagwell said that the current epidemic is a result of prescribed opiates that lead to the misuse of opiates when the person, pregnant or not, becomes addicted — and affects everyone, regardless of socioeconomic class or race.

According to specialists, babies born with NAS require special care, but the most important thing for them is love and attention.

“The babies do best if they stay with their moms and do skin to skin care,” Bagwell said. “If the mom is in a treatment program, we encourage breastfeeding as it has been shown to decrease symptoms and length of stay.”

She said that other ways to care for a baby with NAS include swaddling, vertical rocking, and feeding a higher calorie formula if they are not breastfed. If the non-pharmacological interventions do not work, the baby will be started on morphine.

There were almost 3,900 infants that had exposure to opioids from 2004 to 2014. As a result, the number of opioid-related hospitalizations increased more than 1,400 percent.

Amy Thomas, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) Administrative Clinical Leader at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said there is an increase in the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome as well as an increase in polysubstance abuse.

In Massachusetts, where an estimated 176 people died of an opioid overdose last September, the state’s Health Policy Commission recently issued a… (continue reading)