Georgia Hospitals Suffering ‘Rapid’ Rise Of Babies Born Addicted To Drugs

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

Doctors in Georgia say the state is experiencing an increase in the number of babies born addicted to drugs, most commonly opioids.

Authorities in the state charged a mother from the town of McIntyre with felony murder Wednesday for the death of her newborn baby on July 31, who tested positive for methamphetamine and opioids. Doctors say the rate of newborns in the state born into the world suffering from drug withdrawal has doubled since 2011, reports 13 WMAZ.

They estimate roughly 1.5 to 2 percent of babies seen in their hospitals have some sort of drug in their system at the time of birth. While the problem is much worse in other states, officials are concerned by the disturbing trend.

“Although that increase and the rate of rise is rather rapid, it’s still relatively low compared to the rest of the nation,” Doctor Mitch Rodriguez, director of the NICU at Coliseum Medical Center, told 13 WMAZ. “The exposure and the need for treatment and the potential morbidities that may be associated, they tend to stay in the hospital for a longer period of time.”

The rate of babies born suffering from drug addiction is at a historic level, increasing five-fold across the U.S. between 2003 and 2012.

The situation in individual states hit hard by opioid abuse is even worse and is causing a shortage in hospital space to treat infants born to addiction. Roughly 15 in every 1,000 babies born in Kentucky enters the world dependent on opioids, requiring the newborns to be placed in neonatal intensive care units for weaning.

The increase in babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) increased by 224 percent between 2008 and 2015 in Arizona. Roughly 3.3 percent of babies born in Ohio are exposed to narcotics in the womb.

Doctors are still unsure what the lifetime repercussions of NAS may be for the infants, but short-term symptoms include seizures, trouble feeding, excessive crying, diarrhea and rapid breathing.

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