Florida Hospitals Report Rise in Newborns Exposed to Opioids

Hospitals on the west coast of Florida are reporting a rise in the number of newborns exposed to opioids. Health care providers say prescription drug abuse is to blame.

Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton reports that on a typical day, more than one-third of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit have been exposed to drugs, according to the Bradenton Herald. The babies suffer symptoms of withdrawal, including shaking, inconsolable crying, skin rashes, vomiting and diarrhea.

Dr. Bernard Cartaya, Director of Neonatology for Manatee Memorial Hospital, told the newspaper the rise in newborns exposed to drugs is associated with “pill mills,” storefront clinics that sell pain medications to people shopping for narcotics.

Tampa General Hospital also reports a jump in the number of babies born who are exposed to opioids and/or methadone.

Nina Pascoe, Care Coordinator for Tampa General Hospital’s newborn intensive care unit, said the average stay for a baby born with signs of exposure to opioids or methadone ranges from 20 to 45 days. Some babies stay for as long as 50 days, she said.

Earlier this year, the American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines for doctors and hospitals on how they can identify and monitor infants exposed to opioids and other drugs of addiction. The group notes there has been an alarming increase in the last decade in the number of newborns who suffer through withdrawal from a variety of opioid drugs.

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