A study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) reveals that infants addicted to opiates are born at a rate of one per hour as of 2009. This number is triple the number found in 2000. Infants are born addicted to opiates when the drugs are used during pregnancy by the pregnant woman. This study may be one of the first to look at the trend of opiate use during pregnancy on a national scale.
What kinds of opiates?
While the study shows a clear rise in opiate use, it does not differentiate between the types of opiates used. Opiates are narcotics typically prescribed in a medical setting to reduce pain. Drugs like codeine and morphine are opiates. Heroin, the illegal street drug, is also an opiate. Researchers don’t know whether the opiate use leans more on the legal or illegal side of the drug market. The source of opiates is extremely important because if pregnant women are being given prescription opiates during pregnancy, it will require a different set of possible solutions than an opiate increase due to use of street drugs during pregnancy.
Researchers were quick to note that opiate use from a prescription perspective is an ongoing problem. Instead of addressing the problem or root cause of the pain, doctors prescribe opiates to kill the pain. Many women have opiates around the house during pregnancy from previous prescriptions or they may buy or borrow opiates.
Further research is needed to narrow down the details of opiate use. Are pregnant women using illegal street drugs or are they addicted to prescription drugs? Are they using pain killers for a long-term condition or to treat the sudden onset of pain that appears during pregnancy? Researchers in the study hope the findings are enough to spark support for additional research. According to Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP, senior author of the study, “We hope that state leaders will call for more research into the data we’ve provided because the majority of hospital expenditures for this condition are shouldered by state Medicaid programs.”
Source: Stephen W. Patrick; Robert E. Schumacher; Brian D. Benneyworth; Elizabeth E. Krans; Jennifer M. McAllister; Matthew M. Davis. JAMA. 30 April, 2012.