Number of Newborns Exposed to Prescription Painkillers Increasing

The number of newborn babies exposed to prescription painkillers is on the rise, USA Today reports. The babies’ mothers are addicted to opioids such as oxycodone or hydrocodone.

“I’m scared to death this will become the crack-baby epidemic,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the newspaper.

In October, she announced a legislative proposal to create a Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns. According to a news release, the task force will examine the scope of the problem, the costs associated with caring for babies with neonatal withdrawal syndrome, the long-term effects of the syndrome, and strategies for preventing prescription drug abuse by expectant mothers.

The article notes nationwide statistics about the number of babies who go through opioid withdrawal are not available, but scattered state reports indicate the number has soared. In Florida, for example, the number of babies with withdrawal syndrome rose from 354 in 2006 to 1,374 in 2010.

Maine has seen a large increase in the number of newborns exposed to opioids. More than 570 babies were born in Maine in 2010 to mothers who used prescription painkillers. That number has tripled in six years.

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    Sid Gardner

    November 18, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Yes, prescription drug use has increased. But dredging up the ancient “crack-baby” label is hardly a thoughtful or effective way to respond. And perhaps it would be helpful to compare the total numbers of women admitted to treatment for alcohol problems, and the usage data compiled by SAMHSA annually, before we go off on a new tangent that ignores the basics: legal substances–alcohol and tobacco–harm far more infants prenatally than illicit drugs or prescription drugs. Getting serious about prenatal exposure involves a multi-year, multi-agency effort rather than reacting to a single substance with another categorical approach.

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