Opioid Crisis Continues, Babies Born Addicted

This month is Drug Free Pain Management Awareness Month. As part of that we are highlighting the facts, figures and stories of opioid addiction. And there is a whole new facet of the opioid crisis that is just coming to light: opioid addicted babies. Before you assume it doesn't happen here in Sioux Falls, check out the national statistics.

The Statistics

Because of the increased use of opioid drugs like OxyContin during pregnancy, recent statistics from JAMA Pediatrics show the number of U.S. cases of opioid related neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has risen five-fold from 2000 to 2012. That’s nearly 22,000 affected infants in the last year alone.

There are babies being born with NAS all across the country, including right here in Sioux Falls.

Dr. Terrie Inder, chair of Pediatric Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston told CBS News, “The babies, they really suffer, just like adults do when they withdraw from narcotics. The babies are very irritable and sometimes have high heart rates, sweating, flushing, diarrhea. They cry a lot.”

Are These Prescribed Drugs?

Sadly, yes.

In a study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, data revealed that of the 1.1 million pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid nationwide, nearly one in five (23%) filled a prescription for opioids in 2007, compared to 18.5 percent in 2000. Sadly, since 2007 that number has continued to rise.

The journal Anesthesiology revealed that in a survey of more than 500,000 privately-insured women, 14.4 percent received opioid painkillers at least once during pregnancy. Most were for a period of 5 days or less, but we know that for some individuals, that is enough time to develop an addiction.

Here is the kicker... back pain was the number one condition for which opioids were prescribed to these women.

Chiropractic is Safe and Effective for Pregnancy

Back and neck discomfort is especially common during pregnancy as the necessary postural changes can result in back and pelvic pain. But back pain is almost always improved by chiropractic care, and chiropractic care is completely safe during pregnancy.

Understanding the Practical Effects of Opioid Addiction in Infants

Babies who are born with NAS often require an extended hospital stay in order to overcome their addiction. The average stay for babies with an opioid addiction is 24 days. This means that mothers can have more difficulty with early bonding.

Researchers noted that mothers often experience a profound amount of guilt when they realize the toll their addiction took on their child. This guilt and anxiety can exacerbate postpartum issues and addictions.

In addition, NAS can lead to long-term issues with cognitive functioning, growth, behavior issues, and a predisposition for later opioid addiction. NAS isn't just an issue for babies.

What Now?

Now the question is how to get the message out that calling your medical doctor with back pain might not be the best first step. Doctors are often under a lot of pressure to immediately relieve pain, and without hands on methods of realigning the body such as those in chiropractic, they are hard pressed to offer relief without offering a prescription.

We encourage all women (and men!) to seek out alternative pain-relief methods before turning to pain medications or costly surgery. If you or someone you know needs help with pain or discomfort during pregnancy, contact us today!

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