Newborns Addicted to Pain Pills Up 300%

Hospitals trying to invent treatment programs

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 29, 2012 3:43 PM CST

(Newser) – Heartbreaking medical news: Cases of babies born addicted to pain pills are up more than 300% over the past decade, forcing doctors and nurses to invent treatments on the fly, the Wall Street Journal reports. Crying non-stop, vomiting, jerking their limbs, these newborns are the result of America's addiction to drugs called opioids—including anti-addiction drugs like methadone and painkillers like oxycodone. More than 13,000 such babies were diagnosed in the US in 2009.

Ill-prepared hospitals have created different treatments, with one giving babies methodone and another trying morphine. But then newborns have to be weaned off of those drugs. Worse, care for drug-addicted babies can take weeks and fatten hospital bills; one study found a mean cost of $53,400, with Medicaid covering 78% of the cases. And hospital staffs worry about babies they fail to diagnose: "Some are going home and withdrawing," said one doctor who noted that drug-addicted mothers may not be ready for such difficult, sensitive babies.

More than 13,000 babies were born in 2009 addicted to prescription drugs like painkillers.
More than 13,000 babies were born in 2009 addicted to prescription drugs like painkillers.   (Shutterstock)
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