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Growing Problem—Babies Born Addicted to Prescription Meds

The Detroit Free Press discussed a pressing issue that is affecting thousands of newborn babies across the country-addiction to prescription painkillers. The story pivots off a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers appreciate that this is a very real concern can have serious consequences for the unfortunate youngsters unknowingly affected.

The new research effort unfortunately shows that the total number of children born addicted to prescription pain medicine has tripled in the past ten years. The lead author of the study, a research at the University of Michigan Health Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, explained that the data comes out to roughly a baby born every hour in the United States addicted to these drugs.

Expectedly, the increase in drug-addicted newborns was caused by a five-fold increase in the total number of mothers who use prescription painkillers while pregnant. There are a range of reasons for the problem. However, some doctors argue that a renewed focus on patient pain is having the adverse effect of breeding more addiction and ultimately causing problems like this one with newborns being affected.

Many of the children affected suffer from a range of birth injuries, often born at low birth weights, with respiratory issues, and problems with seizures. Children born addicted also often face irritability, feeding problem, tremors and muscle cramping. They have vomiting issues and often watery stool.

Each Chicago birth injury lawyer at our firm appreciates that beyond the medical concerns, there are financial consequences of this problem. According to the story, the average cost to treat children suffering from withdrawal-known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)-increased significantly in the last ten years. In 2000, each case cost a little more than $39,000. Now, each case costs $53,400 to treat.

In total, babies facing NAS needed to stay in the hospital an average of 16 days. Of those patients, the vast majority-nearly 80%-were covered by Medicaid. That means that it was ultimately the taxpayers that were footing the bill.

Taken together, the needless suffering and high costs will hopefully act as an incentive for changes to be made that lower the prevalence of the problem. This particular study did not delve into the overall causes of the problem. The purpose was to gather information on NAS generally, not to identify why mothers were taking the drugs. However, it has long been known that the most common drugs linked to NAS are opiates.

The lead author of this particular study said that in her opinion one problem is doctors that too easily prescribe painkillers. There needs to be more accountability to ensure patients receive them when necessary but not at times or in ways that are a danger to them or their unborn children. Addiction with these drugs-like Vicodin and OxyContin-can take hold as quickly as two week, say experts. The detoxifying process is no cake walk. It involves a rapid pulse, blood pressure issues, cramped, muscle plain, tremors, queasiness, sleeplessness, and depression.

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