Rise in Opioid-Addicted Newborns Being Investigated by CDC
Nearly all of the infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome identified in three Florida hospitals during a two-year period had documented in utero opioid exposure. Despite this, only 10% of their mothers received or were referred for drug addiction rehabilitation or counseling upon giving birth.
About Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
Neonatal withdrawal or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a withdrawal syndrome of infants, caused by the cessation of the administration of licit or illicit drugs. Tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal may occur as a result of repeated administration of drugs or even after short-term high dose use—for example during mechanical ventilation in intensive care units.
There are two types of NAS: prenatal and postnatal. Prenatal NAS is caused by discontinuation of drugs taken by the pregnant mother, while postnatal NAS is caused by discontinuation of drugs directly to the infant.
Description of Investigation
According to Medscape, the findings from this investigation were reported by Jennifer N. Lind, PharmD, from the Epidemic Intelligence Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, and colleagues for the March 6 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The article addresses the issue of opioid use in women of childbearing age and point to the need for preventive and rehabilitative interventions in this population. Infants born with the condition NAS typically have extended hospital stays, experience severe medical complications, and are costly to treat.
The investigators identified three hospitals in two different Florida counties with a high number of NAS births that were able to provide the necessary study data. From 2010 to 2011, a total of two-hundred-forty-two infants with diagnosed with NAS were born in these hospitals. Of these, 99.6% of the infants were exposed to opioids in the uterus and 97.1% were admitted to the intensive care unit.
The average length of stay was 26.1 days. None of the infants died during their birth hospitalization. Medical record documentation confirmed that 99.6% of the mothers used opioids during pregnancy.
Results of Investigation
Investigators note that NAS is now a mandatory reportable condition in Florida. The findings of this investigation emphasize the important public health problem of NAS.
They also point to the need for interventions to increase community resources available to drug-abusing women of reproductive age, enhance drug-addiction counseling and rehabilitation referral and documentation policies, and link women to these resources before or earlier in pregnancy.