25-Mar-15 4:00 PM  CST

Painkiller Addiction Increasingly Seen in Newborns

It’s no secret that there has been a steady increase in patients becoming addicted to prescription painkillers. In fact, many law enforcement and health officials believe the increasing addiction to prescription painkillers is largely responsible for the increasing population of heroin users. A recent article in Bloomberg News states that 90% of heroin users are white and live in non-urban areas. What is even more disturbing is that when most began their journey of self-destruction it was with prescription painkillers.

The news continues to be progressively negative. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) brings to light a new demographic of addiction and perhaps the most vulnerable of all, newborns. The report from the CDC states that there is a growing population of newborns being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Newborns diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome are born addicted to the painkillers their mothers are abusing, typically drugs such as hydrocodone, morphine and oxycontin.

The CDC reports that since 1995 the incidence of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome has tripled nationwide, but that the state of Florida has seen the most significant increase at nearly ten times that of any other state. Dr. Jennifer Lind, a CDC epidemiologist, affirms that most newborns born with addiction usually have the symptoms of addiction appear within the first few weeks of life. Symptoms can include, excessive crying, diarrhea, fevers, tremors, and vomiting. Withdrawal for these innocent victims can last for several weeks and even up to a month.

According to Dr. Lind 4 out of 5 newborns born addicted to painkillers will need to be treated with morphine and phenobarbital in order to ease the symptoms and decrease the number of seizures being experienced by the newborn. Additionally, the CDC is quick to point out that with an average stay of 26 weeks Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome also becomes a very costly issue as well.

Clearly, the solution to this problem relies on the addiction treatment of the mother. The CDC report states that approximately 10% of pregnant women identified as drug abusers were referred for treatment during their pregnancies. Of course, the most effective way to prevent further addiction is to simply stop the abuse. A task that seems to be easier said than done.





Basak, S., (2014), “Heroin Users in US, 90% White, Live Outside Urban Areas”, Bloomberg News, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-05-28/heroin-users-are-90-percent-white-living-outside-urban-a, retrieved, 7. March 2015


Lind, J., (2015), “Infant and Maternal Characteristics in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, Select Hospitals in Florida, 2010-2011”, CDC, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6408a3.htm?s_cid=mm6408a3_w, retrieved, 7. March 2015


Reinberg, S., (2015), “Painkiller addicted babies a growing U.S. concern”, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/baby/news/20150306/painkiller-addicted-babies-a-growing-us-concern-especially-in-fla, retrieved 7. March 2015

For additional information on this article, please contact:
Kelley Simmons
Source: Sandy Andrews, CPhT, BLS  

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