A new study released on Monday has found that the number of babies who are being exposed to addictive drugs in utero is on the rise. The study, which was published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the number of babies being born addicted to, or that had been exposed to, an addictive drug had increased by almost three times the level that it was at 10 years ago.
A high percentage of the babies who had been exposed to an addictive drug had been exposed to some form of opiate. Scientists specifically noted that this included both illegal drugs and legal prescription drugs.
Here is some of the key information that was revealed by this new study:
* The study looked at data compiled between 2000 and 2009. During that time, the number of babies who were born who had been exposed to addictive drugs while in the womb increased from 1.20 per 1,000 to 3.39 per 1,000.
* The number of women who were specifically using opiates while pregnant increased from 1.19 per 1,000 births to 5.63 per 1,000 births in that same time period. Those drugs included heroin, Oxycontin, morphine, and codeine, among others.
* Babies who were born to women who had used opiates while pregnant were far more likely to suffer from a number of complications related to neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which included low birthweight, seizures, and respiratory issues, among other problems. This also led to longer hospital stays and far higher medical costs.
* To gather their research, scientists working through the University of Michigan Health System used the information available to them from two national databases in order to analyze records. In total, they examined the data that had been compiled on some 14 million children and adults during that 10-year time period.
* Reuters Health pointed out that studies seeking to figure out the long-term effects of NAS on a child have so far not been able to reach a consensus. But the University of Michigan study has shed light on just how much the cost of treating these babies has increased -- by some 35 percent in a single decade.
* Of particular concern to the researchers was the fact that a high percentage of the mothers who had exposed their babies to opiates were in fact abusing prescription medications, particularly painkillers, as opposed to illegal drugs, which had dominated in the past.
Vanessa Evans is a musician and freelance writer based in Michigan, with a lifelong interest in health and nutrition issues.