The opioid epidemic is wreaking havoc on newborn babies, sending the rate of infants suffering from drug withdrawal soaring in states across the country.
Data released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services in North Carolina paints a disturbing picture of this trend, showing an 893 percent increase in the number of babies born addicted to painkillers between 2004 and 2015. The infants, born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), spend their first days suffering harsh withdrawal symptoms due to the drug abuse of their parents and must be treated in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for an average of 19 days, reports ABC 11.
As a result of the national opioid addiction crisis, which kills roughly four people in North Carolina each day, one in every 100 babies born in the state now suffer from withdrawal symptoms.
“It’s not normal,” Dr. James Perciaccante, Medical Director of WakeMed Neonatology, told ABC 11. “We’ve seen infants with narcotics withdrawal before, but never at such a high level. The danger is they won’t develop normally.”
Doctors at WakeMed Neonatology said for every 38 babies born at the hospital, eight are dependent on a drug. 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.
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 rise is driven by the current opioid epidemic, which killed an estimated 64,070 Americans this year.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.
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