The rate of newborns suffering opiate withdrawal symptoms is skyrocketing, according to a new report. Circa talked to the White House's Director of National Drug Policy about the health crisis ravaging the U.S. and how the 21st Century Cures Act will help states combat the opioid crisis.
The study, published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, found that the rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) -- a condition similar to withdrawal the develops when babies become addicted to drugs their mothers used during pregnancy -- have increased nearly five-fold across the country over the last decade.
A rural US epidemic
Unlike the so-called "crack baby" epidemic of the 1990s, NAS is affecting more babies born in rural areas, where the rate of NAS surged from 1.2 cases per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 7.5 cases per 1,000 births by 2013, according to the study.
In addition, the frequency of hospital births complicated by maternal opioid use also increased during the same time period, from 1.3 to 8.1 per 1,000 hospital deliveries in rural areas and from 1.6 to 4.8 per 1,000 hospital deliveries in urban areas.
WATCH | Huntington, West Virginia, Mayor Steve Williams told Circa how the 21st Century Cures bill will help people in his town, which saw more than 900 overdoses last year and has an overdose rate that is almost 10 times the national average.
The report underscores a growing opioid addiction crisis. An average of 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Prior to our study, we had limited data from a few states like West Virginia and Tennessee that showed rising rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome in some rural counties," lead study author Dr. Nicole Villapiano told Reuters. "What we didn’t know was how the opioid crisis has affected rural moms and their infants across the country."
Babies often need intensive care
The report did address the long-term health of babies born suffering from opioid withdrawal, but said the infants often require intensive medical care.
Babies born with NAS can have seizures, breathing issues, fluctuating body temperature, trouble eating and diarrhea.
WATCH | Opioid abuse is generally higher in rural areas where people can't afford or access rehabilitation programs. This mannequin challenge is a stark reminder of the ultimate cost and the unintended victims.
Cures Act targets opioid epidemic
On Tuesday, President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, a $6.3-billion medical research bill that includes funding to help states combat the opioid epidemic.
"The Cures Act makes important investments that will save lives," Obama said in a statement after the Senate passed the bill.
WATCH | Here's what one father, who lost his son to a prescription opioid overdose has to say about how the new law will help others suffering with addiction.
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