Increase in Babies Born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

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Increase in Babies Born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

In the last ten years, the number of babies treated for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), also known as drug-withdrawal syndrome, has quadrupled. This comes from a study of 112,000 pregnant women in Tennessee.

In 2004, only 7 out of every 1,000 babies was born with NAS. By 2013, this number rose to 27 out of every 1,000. The number of days the babies had to stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) also increased. Now, 20 percent of all NICU days are dedicated to caring for babies born with NAS.

Out of the 112,000 pregnant women, 28 percent of them were taking painkillers. Of those taking the painkillers, 65 percent had a legal prescription. Many women were also smoking, which can also lead to nicotine addiction in babies.

Because of the rising number of NAS babies, and also the rising number of overdoses across the country, physicians are being more stingy with painkiller prescriptions. They are educating their patients more about the effects of the medications and warning of addiction as a side effect. With more awareness, we could see a drop in the number of NAS babies not only in Tennessee, but across the country.