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Opioid epidemic fueling sharp increase in drug-dependent newborns, study reports

The increased use of opioid painkillers by pregnant women has led to a drastic increase in the number of drug-dependent newborns in the U.S., a recent study has found. According to the report published in JAMA Pediatrics, the high number of drug-dependent newborns born in the U.S. is straining hospital resources, especially in rural areas where opioid abuse is increasingly common.

According to the study, the number of drug-dependent newborns born in rural U.S. counties rose by 700% between 2004 and 2013. Urban areas also saw a sharp increase in the number of children born dependent on drugs, with a fourfold increase over the same period.

Common symptoms of drug dependency in newborns can include irritability, breathing problems, seizures, or problems with feeding. Although newborn drug dependency – also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome – can be caused by antidepressants, barbiturates, or other drugs, researchers say that the recent increase in drug dependency among babies is due to the alarming rise in opioid painkiller use in the U.S. over recent years.

Another recently published study explored the high cost of treating newborns with opioid or other drug dependencies. Between 2009 and 2013, the hospital costs of treating drug-dependent newborns has more than doubled, according to research published in the Journal of Perinatology.

As a result of the increase in the number of opioid-dependent and other drug-dependent newborns, some hospital neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) now devote 10% or more of their time to treating these newborns. Many rural hospitals, where the problem is more acute, are understaffed, further exacerbating the problem of treating drug-dependent infants.

According to a 2014 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, NICUs that formerly spent under 1% of their staff hours caring for drug-dependent infants now spend about 4% percent of their time doing so. Eight NICUs studied by researchers reported that they are spending over 20% of their staff hours caring for babies born with drug dependence.

The increasing problem of opioid abuse and addiction over recent years has shifted the problem of babies born with drug dependency from urban to rural areas. During the 1970s and 1980s, drug dependency in newborns was most common in urban areas where illicit drug use was more widespread. Thanks to the increased availability of opioid painkillers in rural areas and the epidemic of abuse and addiction these medications have inflicted on rural populations, drug-dependent newborns have become more common in these areas than in urban regions.

In addition to the problem of opioid abuse, researchers say that the increase in drug-dependent newborns is also caused by the increased willingness of doctors to prescribe opioids to pregnant mothers. According to a 2014 study, about 42% of pregnant women in Utah and 35% in Idaho received opioid prescriptions from their doctors.

Thousands Affected by Complications from U.S. Opioid Epidemic

The alarming rise in the use of opioid painkillers in the U.S. has played a significant role in the number of children born with drug dependency. The widespread use of these drugs by doctors, combined with the aggressive promotion of these drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, has led to a substantial increase in the number of Americans who develop problems with abuse, addiction, or other complications caused by opioid medications.

If you or a loved one have experienced problems caused by opioid painkiller prescriptions, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the doctor who prescribed these drugs or their manufacturers. The first step in taking legal actions is to consult with a law firm whose attorneys have the experience to advise you regarding your legal rights and help guide you through the process of filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous clients who have been affected by complications from opioid medications, including fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and other drugs. Our attorneys have taken on some of the largest drugmakers and other corporations in the world on behalf of our clients. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we believe that everyone should have the right to experienced professional legal counsel to ensure that their rights are protected in a court of law.

For more information about whether you may qualify to file an opioid painkillers lawsuit and for a free legal consultation about your case, contact Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by filling out the free case evaluation form located at the top of this page.

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