Rural communities see spike in babies born addicted to opioids

The number of U.S. infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome — a term encapsulating the host of health problems newborns experience when their mothers use opioids during pregnancy — increased five-fold from 2000 to 2012. This surge is partially attributable to the rapidly rising rates of maternal opioid use in rural communities, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers examined data on births and deliveries from 2004 to 2013. The data was previously compiled in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Analysis revealed the rate of babies born addicted to opioids in urban settings increased from 1.4 per 1,000 hospital births to 4.8 from 2004 to 2013. In the same time period, the number of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome in rural communities increased from 1.2 per 1,000 hospital births to 7.5.

From 2012 to 2013, approximately 21 percent of babies born experiencing withdrawal symptoms were delivered in rural communities, compared to just 13 percent from 2003 to 2004.

"The increase that you see in the JAMA data relates to a more widespread use of pain medications across all social classes. Now, we are equally likely to see a mother from a middle class or upper middle class background who was unaware that taking these medicines could lead to that type of consequence for her baby," Terrie Inder, MD, chair of pediatric newborn medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the research, told CBS News.

Dr. Inders described the rising rates of opioid addicted babies as a serious public health concern, telling CBS News: "This has exploded. We are dealing with an explosion of a national health issue."

More articles on population health: 
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