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Babies Born Addicted to Opiates On The Rise: Are Doctors To Blame?

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

Most women are aware of the dangers associated with alcohol and illicit drug use during pregnancy, but many may not know that prescription pain medications, such as Oxycodone and Vicodin, also pose dangerous risks including possible birth defects and painful syndromes affecting newborns.

A recent study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), indicates that the number of babies born addicted to opiates, including prescription pain relievers, tripled from the year 2000 to the year 2009.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

According to the lead author of the study, Stephen W. Patrick, MD, MPH, a child born every hour of every day is born with what’s known as neonatal abstinence syndrome-a condition where babies experience the effects of withdraw from the mother’s use of opiates.

Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome often have difficulty breathing, endure high fevers and terrible bouts of diarrhea, have low birth weights, and have difficulty feeding. In severe cases, they can experience seizures.

The main treatment for babies with the syndrome involves isolating them in rooms with low-light and little noise while also giving them extra physical attention. Some babies, however, will need to be weaned off the opiates by giving them special doses of morphine or methadone over a period of weeks or months.

Prescription Drug Misconception

One potential factor in the increase in opiate use by pregnant mothers is the misconception that prescription painkillers are safe since they have been prescribed by doctors and are made by legal, regulated pharmaceutical companies.

The study authors say that some doctors may also be misinformed about the potential problems with opiate painkillers, and, therefore, overprescribe them.

According the various health professionals, primary care doctors should take more precaution when prescribing these drugs making sure to ask plenty of questions about their patients’ drug use-prescription or otherwise, and the effects of these drugs on pregnant women and those who could become pregnant.

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