Rise in opioid abuse leads to more newborns experiencing withdrawal symptoms

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The scourge of opioid abuse in Massachusetts has brought unforeseen challenges to unexpected places — towns outside Boston are seeing a higher rate of opioid-related deaths, and a higher rate of opioid-exposed babies. The hospitals with the biggest proportions of such babies — 3.8 to 5.8 percent of deliveries in 2014 — are in Fall River, New Bedford, Melrose, Pittsfield, and Hyannis.

At the Cape’s two hospitals — Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis and Falmouth Hospital — 61 babies were born after being exposed to drugs in the womb, and 35 of them suffered withdrawal symptoms, in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. They were a small fraction of the nearly 1,200 babies delivered during that time at the two hospitals, but three times more than in 2009.

Drug-exposed babies are usually full-term and healthy except for their temporary withdrawal pains. They get better faster when light and noise are kept low, and their mothers are on hand to nurse frequently and hold them skin to skin.


Nationwide, intensive care admissions for babies withdrawing from drugs — known as neonatal abstinence syndrome — quadrupled from 2004 through 2013, according to a study published in 2015.

Read full, original post: On Cape Cod, an influx of drug-dependent newborns

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