Drug & Alcohol Facts Week: Infants pay the price for opioid abuse by mothers

Drug & Alcohol Facts Week: Infants pay the price for opioid abuse by mothers

Drug & Alcohol Facts Week: Infants pay the price for opioid abuse by mothers

“Millions of American women of childbearing age take opioids – and many are swallowing the prescription painkillers before realizing they’re pregnant, endangering their unborn babies,” says a recent news report based on a release by the federal health officials warning against the impact of overdose of prescription drugs on pregnant women.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the non-medical use of prescription drugs, particularly opioids, is a growing epidemic in the U.S. with its prevalence being the same in both men and women. These drugs are mostly obtained from friends or through theft, and are used in ways and quantities different from that prescribed by doctors. In many cases, American women are taking overdose of prescription painkillers without realizing that they are pregnant.

The commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids, CNS depressants (barbiturates and benzodiazepines) and various stimulants, including dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine or Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin), prescribed to treat narcolepsy and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow warns, “Increased use of prescription opioids during pregnancy is likely a contributing factor in the rise in rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the United States.”

Most American infants suffer from NAS

Various government and non-government agencies are involved in reducing the level of abuse of prescription drugs by women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) published in January 2015, revealed that a quarter of the young women with private insurance had filled opioid prescriptions every year from 2008 through 2012. The CDC’s report that had analyzed the opioid taking habits of 62 million American women aged 15-44 raises concerns as most of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned and consuming painkillers like Oxycodone during the first few weeks of pregnancy may give way to birth defects in infants.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden told NBCNews.com, “Many women of reproductive age are taking these medicines and may not know they are pregnant and therefore may be unknowingly exposing their unborn child.”

As the government has turned its focus on more and more infants born with neonatal withdrawal or NAS, Dr. Volkow, in an editorial published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on January 12, 2016, stated, “The steep increase in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the United States has been associated with a parallel rise in their misuse, fatal overdoses, and heroin use.”

The National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week 2016, being observed from January 25 to 31, highlights the seriousness of alcohol and drug abuse in the country and seeks to put to rest all myths surrounding substance abuse.

Even President Barack Obama had referred to opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic in his eighth and final State of the Union address on January 12, “I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like … helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse.”

Shocking figures

CDC clearly states that there has been an increase in the prevalence of opioid use disorders in pregnant women. Also, approximately 14-22 percent of pregnant women receive an opioid prescription during their pregnancy. Attributing the high rate of opioid use to increasing cases of infants born with NAS in the country, Dr. Volkow opines, “The United States has also seen an increase in the incidence of NAS, from 1.20 to 3.39 per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2009.”

NIDA also points out that in 2012, newborns with NAS stayed in the hospital an average of 16.9 days (compared to 2.1 days for other newborns), costing hospitals an estimated $1.5 billion; the majority of these charges (81 percent) were paid by state Medicaid programs, reflecting the greater tendency of opiate-abusing mothers to be from lower-income communities.

Quitting drug abuse problem

It is necessary for a woman to alter her lifestyle when she is pregnant. Being honest about abuse of prescription drugs – prior to pregnancy and during the gestation period – is necessary.

If you or your loved one has been involved in long-term use of opioids or other prescription drugs and are finding it difficult to do away with the dependency, you must seek professional help. You can find more about treatment and recovery by speaking to our representative at Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline. Call anytime at 866-623-3847.

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