A health expert says the increase in the use of prescribed opioids by pregnant women has likely contributed to an increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome.

“The steep increase in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in the United States has been associated with a parallel rise in their misuse, fatal overdoses, and heroin use,” she explains. “More recently, attention has been focused on the large increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.”

In the US, estimates suggest that 14-22% of pregnant women receive an opioid prescription during their pregnancy, and there has been an increase in the prevalence of opioid use disorders among pregnant women.

Furthermore, the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome increased from 1.20 to 3.39 per 1000 live births between 2000 and 2009.

“High prescribing rates of opioids to women during pregnancy have probably contributed to recent increases in neonatal abstinence syndrome,” argues Volkow.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a serious medical condition that results from a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb.

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