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MA has Tripled the Nation’s Rate of Drug-Addicted Infants

Update Date: Jun 20, 2014 10:39 AM EDT

According to new data, the number of babies born with drugs in their system is alarmingly high in Massachusetts. The report calculated that this state's rate of drug-addicted babies is tripled the nation's rate. The researchers stressed the importance of reducing this rate and getting pregnant women the help they need.

"If you don't know the scope of the problem, how can you begin to address it?" asked Dr. Elisha Wachman, a neonatologist at Boston Medical Center who specializes in treating these babies reported by the Boston Globe.

In this study, researchers, including Dr. Wachman, collected data on infants who were born with opiates in their system. The medical information came from the Department of Children and Families. 42 hospitals throughout MA had reported cases of drug-addicted babies to this department. Within this state, hospital staffers are required by law to report any cases of addicted infants to the child protection agency.

Based on these numbers, the team estimated that in 2013, more than 1,300 babies, which is around 17.5 babies per 1,000 hospital births, could be classified as drug-addicted newborns. The 2012 national rate of babies born with drugs in their system is five out of every 1,000 hospital births. The alarming rates suggest that more needs to be done to combat this problem.

"This is something that we are looking at enhancing as part of the governor's task force recommendations," Anne Roach, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, said to the news. "[The department will] analyze the available data to measure the impact of neonatal abstinence syndrome."

"A lot of hospitals don't have guidelines for these things, which should be standard in how we treat these babies," Dr. Wachman added.

Drug-addicted babies can suffer potentially fatal consequences, such as withdrawal symptoms that can cause complications with feeding and breathing. Drug-addicted newborns might also have diarrhea, vomiting and seizures that can last from a few weeks to months.

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