Heroin and prescription drug addiction are ongoing epidemics in the United States and the state of Kentucky has continuously been at the top of the list of states affected. As a result of this crisis, the number of drug-addicted newborn children in Kentucky has increased dramatically. Hospitalizations of drug addicted newborns have increased from 67 in 2001 to 955 in 2012, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. These newborns will undergo all of the same withdrawal symptoms as any other full-grown opioid addict such as diarrhea, vomiting, fevers, seizures and respiratory distress. They must undergo treatment that includes being fed fluids intravenously, tapered doses of morphine and rocking the children to comfort and calm them.
A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that admissions to neonatal intensive care units for drug addicted newborns in the U.S. have almost quadrupled between 2004 and 2013. This overall occurrence has almost doubled in the past four years and has resulted in one drug-addicted baby being born every 25 minutes in the U.S., attributing to $1.5 billion in health care costs. According to research conducted at Vanderbilt University, published in the Journal of Perinatology, the rates of newborns who are born dependent on drugs are the highest in the collective regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 259 million prescriptions for opioids were written in 2012, enough to supply every American adult with a bottle of painkillers. Dr. Stephen Patrick, an assistant professor of pediatrics and health policy and leader of Vanderbilt’s perinatology study, found that 28 percent of the pregnant Medicaid recipients who were studied in Tennessee filled at least one prescription for painkillers. He suspects this number to be the same among other high-prescribing states in the South.
Nationally, the number of drug poisoning deaths resulting from heroin use has almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2013. The increase in heroin abuse, some treatment experts say, is partially due to the recent crackdown and surveillance of prescription drug abuse and crooked doctors. In 2012, Kentucky passed a law that increased the supervision of pain management clinics, prevented doctors from overprescribing painkillers and required clinical staff to make use of electronic prescription drug monitoring programs. While these measures have attempted to limit prescription drug abuse rates, they may be to blame for the rise of heroin abuse in the U.S. Heroin is a cheap alternative to prescription medication that is overall easier to obtain when compared to regulated opioid medications.
This consistent rise in neonatal abstinence syndrome – NAS – among newborns seems to mirror the rising painkiller and heroin epidemic that is plaguing the country and leaving many families feeling helpless. Ongoing provisional actions have been implemented to combat this crisis and increase awareness of this problem.
Additionally, prevention through treatment can curb addiction-related issues like NAS by helping prevent a mother from ever becoming addicted to drugs or by helping her get clean before conceiving or becoming pregnant. Getting clean and sober with the help of addiction treatment facilities will make for a healthy, fulfilling life.
Sovereign Health Group is among the leading addiction treatment providers in the country. We offer detox options along with a variety of inpatient and outpatient programs to assist those struggling with addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis conditions. You may reach us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and our treatment specialist will assist you in finding the right treatment option for you.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer