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Maternal opiate use and newborns suffering from opiate withdrawal are on the rise in the U.S.

This is an infographic. See text below for details.

Text Description of Infographic

Use of opiates during pregnancy can result in a drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). A new study to determine the extent, context, and costs of NAS found that incidence of NAS is rising in the United States. The proportion of babies born with NAS tripled from 2000 to 2009, when an estimated 13,539 infants were born with NAS —equivalent to one baby suffering from opiate withdrawal born every hour. Newborns with NAS were more likely than other babies to also have low birthweight and respiratory complications. The number of delivering mothers using or dependent on opiates rose even more—nearly five-fold—from 2000 to 2009, to an estimated 23,009. In 2009, newborns with NAS stayed in the hospital an average of 16.4 days (compared to 3.3. days for other newborns), costing hospitals an estimated $720 million; the majority of these charges (77.6%) were paid by state Medicaid programs, reflecting the greater tendency of opiate-abusing mothers to be from lower-income communities. The rising frequency (and costs) of drug withdrawal in newborns points to the need for measures to reduce antenatal exposure to opiates.

Top Left Graph: Every hour, 1 baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawal.

Top Right Graph: Average length or cost of hospital stay graph.  Newborns with NAS stayed in the hospital for an average of 16.4 days compared to 3.3 days for those without NAS. The hospital costs for newborns with NAS were $53,400 on average compared to $9,500 for those without NAS.

Bottom Graph: NAS and maternal opiate use on the rise graph.

The rate of babies born with NAS per 1,000 hospital births was 1.2 in 2000, 1.5 in 2003, 1.96 in 2007, and 3.39 in 2009. The rate of maternal opiate use per 1,000 hospital births was 1.19 in 2000, 1.26 in 2003, 2.52 in 2006, and 5.63 in 2009.

This page was last updated October 2012