Newborn babies are increasingly suffering from the national opioid epidemic in Colorado, spending their first days suffering painful drug withdrawals.
The rate of babies born with an addiction to opioids spiked 83 percent across the state between 2010 and 2015 as abuse rates of prescription painkillers increased among adults. Officials from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment revealed data Monday showing the rate of newborns suffering opioid withdrawals rose from roughly 2 babies out of 1,000 to 3.6 out of 1,000, reports KUNC.
Officials said the increase is likely a result of the massive shift from prescription painkillers to heroin by dependent users who build a tolerance to pills.
“As we try to address prescription opioids and the misuse of those in Colorado communities, some people are turning to heroin and the risk of a newborn becoming addicted to opioids increases with heroin,” Lindsey Myers, who runs the department’s violence and injury prevention efforts, told KUNC. “It’s not just treatment. It’s also prevention and intervention and law enforcement strategies, etcetera, that all have to work together in order to combat this problem.”
The rate of infants suffering from drug withdrawal is soaring in states across the country. Data released Nov. 29 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. 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 also at a historic level nationally, increasing five-fold across the U.S. between 2003 and 2012, fueled by the opioid epidemic.
The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), released its first preliminary report in August giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. The CDC estimates that drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, with 64,070 Americans suffering a fatal overdose that year, driven primarily by fentanyl.
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.
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