Over the past decade, the number of opiate withdrawal symptoms appearing in newborns has tripled. In 2000, the number of babies born into opiate addiction was 1 in 1000. By 2009, that number increased to 3 in 10000, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The article indicates that approximately 13,000 babies are born opiate addicts each year. This alarming trend is a result of one of two factors: either the opiate addicted baby’s mother was taking illegal drugs or abusing prescription opiates when she was pregnant, or the mother entered a methadone program while pregnant to get off street drugs, such as heroin.
Babies who are born addicted to opiates suffer from many withdrawal symptoms that require medical intervention. They may have difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, eating problems and uncomfortability that results in constant crying. They may also be prone to more serious withdrawal complications such as seizures, low birth weight and poor lung functioning.
Often, these opiate babies need intensive care treatment. Occasionally, they are given methadone for a short time and slowly weened off the drug. This weening process is expensive and very slow. Months of treatment may be necessary. Healthcare costs as a result of such treatment rose from $190 million in 2000 to $720 million in 2009.
Physicians are unsure if opiate addicted babies who must undergo treatment for their unwarranted addiction will suffer long-term consequences as they mature.