By Liz Szabo
The number of babies born addicted to the class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers has nearly tripled in the past decade, according to the first national study of its kind.
About 3.4 of every 1,000 infants born in a hospital in 2009 suffered from a type of drug withdrawal commonly seen in the babies of pregnant women who abuse narcotic pain medications, the study says. It’s published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
That’s about 13,539 infants a year, or one drug-addicted baby born every hour, says the study’s lead author, Stephen Patrick, a fellow in neonatal-perinatal medicine at the University of Michigan.
Treating drug-addicted newborns, most of whom are covered by the publicly financed Medicaid program, cost $720 million in 2009, the study says.
The country has an obligation to help these newborns, who “have made no choices around drug abuse and addiction” and are “the most vulnerable and the most blameless” members of society, says Marie Hayes, a psychology professor at the University of Maine who was not involved in the study.
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