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Prescription drug abuse rates are rapidly increasing in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it is responsible for the consumption of 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs. Abuse of prescription drugs occurs who the drug is taken in a manner other than its intended purpose such as to get high.

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10-26 Risk of drug withdrawal spikes in newborns as opioid crisis accelerates

Posted in Opioids by Rachael - 0 Comments
Risk of drug withdrawal spikes in newborns as opioid crisis accelerates

The past two decades have seen an incredible escalation in opioid epidemic in the United States,  inflicting a range of complexities and repercussions on the overall health of individuals consuming such medications either prescribed to them or abused by them.

The rising use of prescription opioids in the U.S. during the last two decades have claimed more lives than motor vehicle crashes. Moreover, the opioid crisis has affected almost all the age groups and populations, such as pregnant women, youngsters, newborns, etc. With an infant being born with the problem of opioid withdrawal popularly known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) every 25 minutes, one can understand the multipronged consequences of opioids.

Due to the trend of overprescribing opioids among medical practitioners, the problem of drug withdrawal syndrome among newborns has increased by manifold in the U.S. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there was a five-fold increase in the number of babies born with between 2000 and 2012. This is primarily due to around five-fold increase in the number of pregnant women dependent on opioids from 2000 to 2009.

Mixing opioid and psychotropic drugs increases risks of NAS

According to a recent study, conducted by a team of researchers based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, pregnant women who were prescribed psychotropic medications (used for treating mental health conditions like anxiety and depression) along with an opioid for treating pain increase the risk of in utero exposure to both the substances  among the babies. As a result, this heightened the number and severity of drug withdrawal (NAS) in the newborns.

The researchers highlighted that NAS occurs more frequently when other psychotropic medications are also prescribed to pregnant women. This syndrome is characterized by a combination of symptoms in the newborn, such as irritability, hypertonia, seizures, difficulty feeding, poor thermoregulation, difficulty breathing and other complicated outcomes that result in expensive hospital admissions. It could also result in a failure to thrive.

The researchers led by Krista F Huybrechts examined the medical records of 200,000 pregnant women who were prescribed opioids within 45 days of delivery and were enrolled in the Medicaid program (a government-sponsored medical insurance program). After examining all the factors, they found that the absolute risk of NAS was substantially higher among newborns of women co-exposed to antidepressants, benzodiazepines and gabapentin along with opioids than those only exposed to opioids.

As such, the absolute risk of NAS after in utero opioid exposure was only 1 percent. However, with the concomitant exposure to psychotropic drugs, the risks increased. The highest absolute risk (11.4 percent) was observed in newborns simultaneously exposed to opioids and gabapentin.

The concurrent exposure of pregnant women to multiple psychotropic drugs and opioids doubled the risk of drug withdrawal and increased the intensity of the symptoms among newborns. The researchers found that between 14 percent and 22 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. turn complicated due to prescription opioid use, which is a humungous number and should sound warning bells.

Exercise caution in treating pregnant women

The strategy for treating pregnant women should be to provide comprehensive and evidence-based treatment to ensure good health to the babies during pregnancy and birth. Moreover, clinicians should be cautious while prescribing opioids and psychotropic medications, especially in the case of pregnant women and people vulnerable to the complications arising due to the consumption of such drugs.

If you or your loved one is battling prescription drug addiction, it is imperative to seek professional help. The Colorado Prescription Abuse Helpline assists in accessing the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in Colorado that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-922-5915 or chat online with our experts to know more about the prescription abuse treatment centers in Colorado.