Inquiry Looks at Compliance With Federal Law Protecting Drug-Dependent Newborns

A U.S. House committee is launching an inquiry into the federal government’s enforcement of a law designed to protect drug-dependent newborns.

The inquiry, launched by Representative John Kline of Minnesota, is in response to aReuters investigation that found 110 cases of babies and toddlers whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy, and later died preventable deaths.

In each case, the babies recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital, but were sent home to families not equipped to care for them.

The number of babies treated for the drug-withdrawal syndrome known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has almost quadrupled in the last decade, according to a last year.

Full story of inquiry into drug-dependent newborns at

High Prescribing Rates Likely Factor in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Increase: Expert

High prescribing rates of opioid painkillers are likely a factor in the increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome, according to the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Nora Volkow wrote in this week’s British Medical Journal that between 2000 and 2009, the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome among newborns increased from 1.2 to 3.4 per 1,000 live births.

An estimated 14 percent to 22 percent of pregnant women in the United States are prescribed opioid painkillers, HealthDay reports. There have been reports of an increase in the rate of painkiller abuse among pregnant women, the article notes.

Babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome undergo withdrawal from the addictive drugs their mothers took during pregnancy, such as oxycodone, morphine or hydrocodone. The syndrome affected seven babies for every 1,000 admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit in 2004. That number jumped to 27 infants per 1,000 by 2013.

Full story of neonatal abstinence syndrome increase at

Two Senators Ask Federal Government to Help Drug-Dependent Newborns

Two U.S. senators are asking the federal government to address the growing problem of drug-dependent newborns, Reuters reports. They say thousands of infants are born each year to mothers who used opioids during pregnancy.

Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania called for hearings on why a federal law that directs states to protect drug-dependent newborns is not being enforced. Senator Charles Schumer of New York wants the Obama Administration to increase funding to help drug-dependent babies.

An investigation by Reuters found 110 babies and toddlers whose mothers used opioids during pregnancies and who died under preventable circumstances. In each case, the babies recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital, but were sent home to families not equipped to care for them.

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Shortage of Drug Treatment for Pregnant Women Can Endanger Fetuses: Experts

The shortage of drug treatment for pregnant women can endanger fetuses, experts tell USA Today. Fewer than 2,000 of the 11,000 treatment facilities listed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration include services for pregnant women.

“In many communities, women are left with very few options,” said Stephen Patrick of Vanderbilt University, who published a recent study on neonatal abstinence syndrome, which affects babies born to mothers dependent on opioids. Patrick found the overall incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome nearly doubled in four years nationally, with one affected baby born every 25 minutes by 2012. His study found 28 percent of pregnant Medicaid recipients in Tennessee had filled at least one opioid prescription.

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Financial Incentives Effective Way to Help Pregnant Women Stop Smoking: Study

A new study finds financial incentives can be an effective way to help pregnant women quit smoking.

Pregnant women who were offered up to $1,200 in shopping vouchers for following steps to become smoke free were more than twice as likely to stop smoking as women who were given free nicotine therapy and counseling.

The researchers, writing in BMJ, say financial incentives “may well have the future potential to sit with vaccines as an important preventive healthcare intervention strategy.”

Full story of pregnant women and smoking incentives at