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Study: Infants With Opioid Dependence Increasing In Rural Areas

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Study: Infants With Opioid Dependence Increasing In Rural Areas

According to a new study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, the number of infants born with opioid dependence has risen, particularly in rural areas.

Indeed, previous studies have also revealed that rural areas have increasingly higher rates of opioid abuse and addiction than urban areas.

The study found that between 2004-2013, the number of infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), rose sharply, most dramatically in rural areas. NAS occurs to infants who are exposed to opioids in utero or soon after birth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms include “central nervous system irritability, autonomic overreactivity, and gastrointestinal tract dysfunction.”

From the study:

“Incidence rates for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and maternal opioid use increased nearly 5-fold in the United States between 2000 and 2012. Previous studies suggest the incidence of NAS may be increasing rapidly in some rural states, in parallel with rising rural rates of other opioid use–related conditions including hepatitis C and overdose deaths.”

For the study, researchers examined nearly 24,000 samples of infant hospital discharge information, as part of a database sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Researchers from several institutions, including the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine analyzed the data from the National Inpatient Sample.

As the drug addiction and opioid epidemic has spread throughout the U.S., most of the focus has been on adult addiction and overdoses. But NAS represents a whole other aspect, revealing a bigger picture as a true public health crisis. This results in more health care needed for babies with opioid dependence, as well as increased stress on the foster care system trying to handle children born to drug addicts.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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