The Number of Babies Born Addicted to Opioids is Growing Alarmingly

baby born with neonatal abstinence syndrome

A new study from the University of Kentucky has confirmed that the rate of babies born addicted to opioids has risen at an utterly alarming rate.

The researchers looked at the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, a condition that exists when a child is exposed to opiate drugs in the womb, such as heroin or prescription opioids. The children diagnosed with this syndrome go through withdrawal for several days after their birth.

According to the study, the rate of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome has doubled from 2008. At that time, there were 2.8 cases of opioid dependency per 1,000 live births. By 2013, the number rose to 7.3 cases per 1,000 live births. About 27,315 children in the United States during the year 2013 were diagnosed as having withdrawal symptoms at their birth. [1]

Alarmingly, within the state of Pennsylvania, the rate of children born addicted to drugs has gone up 250% in the last 15 years. According to the state’s statistics, 20 out of every 1,000 live children are born addicted to drugs of some sort, which is more than double the national rate of dependence. Statistics in Pennsylvania say that 82% of the time, the children are born dependent on an opioid taken by the mother while she was pregnant. [2]

Image source: – The Inquirer Daily News

Read: Update: FDA Takes Major Steps to Address Growing Opioid Crisis

The study also pointed out Kentucky as a state with a higher rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome. Kentucky was just a little bit higher than Pennsylvania in terms of children born dependent on drugs, with 21.2 children for every live birth addicted to some kind of opiate drug.

Pennsylvania alone estimates that the cost of babies born addicted to drugs adds $20.3 million to the Medicaid program. This is because children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome must remain in the hospital longer than other children. They are given morphine, which is gradually reduced, to help them curb their symptoms. They also often have tremors, diarrhea, trouble feeding, and cry non-stop as they are detoxing.

The researchers have stated that babies born to drug-addicted mothers are a national burden on the healthcare system, and thus more efforts need to be made to stop women from abusing drugs during their pregnancy.


[1] Live Science

[2] Philadelphia Inquirer