Fetal alcohol syndrome has been on the radar for decades. In the 80s and 90s we learned about “crack babies” or pre-natal cocaine exposure (PCE). Experts continue to study the short and long term effects of PCE. Now it is being reported that the number of babies being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has tripled between 2000 and 2009. In short, these babies are born addicted to opiates. Additionally, mothers using opiates at the time of delivery grew five-fold during the same period of time.
The current study was conducted by Dr. Stephen Patrick of the University of Michigan and according to Patrick, “This observation is consistent with the trend of increasing opiate use across the U.S., which is not limited to illicit drugs.”
Here is a Good Morning America (GMA) interview discussing neonatal abstinence syndrome and the startling statistics:
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This phenomenon takes a toll on the baby, the attending medical personnel, the hospitals, parents and society in general. The babies must be weaned off of the opiates and be monitored carefully for respiratory complications, feeding difficulties and seizures.
Studies will need to be conducted to determine residual long-term effects of NAS. But it is easy to see this is a difficult and painful way to begin life.