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Opioid Crisis’ Youngest Victims

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Increases 538 Percent Throughout Decade

New Missouri-specific research finds that the growth in opioid abuse in the state parallels an alarming upward trend in newborns — neonatal abstinence syndrome. Researchers from the Hospital Industry Data Institute reviewed hospital diagnostic codes for all Missouri births between 2006 and 2016, and found a 538 percent increase in codes related to newborns with withdrawal symptoms stemming from maternal drug use.

“Babies born addicted to powerful drugs suffer withdrawal symptoms similar to adults and require specialized, and often intensive, care,” said Herb B. Kuhn, MHA President and CEO. “The growth of opioid abuse, and its toll on the state and nation, are well documented. The prevalence of NAS, and the costs to care for these newborns, has been less well documented.”

Missouri Rep. Holly Rehder of Sikeston, has introduced legislation to establish a prescription drug monitoring program to assist providers in identifying prescription drug abuse. HIDI research released in October 2015 showed a leveling off of hospital and emergency department visits between 2012 and 2014. The updated data identifies a new spike in hospital utilization between 2014 and 2015.

“Missouri is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program,” Rehder said. “Without having a patient’s medication history available to a physician or pharmacist, it’s difficult to identify individuals who are abusing these powerful drugs. And, as this research reveals, the user isn’t always the only victim of the abuse.”

Other notable statistics:

  • hospital charges to Medicaid for infants born with NAS topped $20 million in fiscal year 2016
  • the number of newborns with NAS increased from approximately 1 in 1,000 in 2006 to 8 in 1,000 in 2016, even though number of births decreased
  • the rate of increase for NAS-affected newborns in Medicaid between 2006 and 2016 was 614 percent
  • the increase in Medicaid NAS-newborns accounted for 86 percent of the total statewide increase throughout the decade
  • the statewide rate of births with NAS in 2016 was 7.9 per 1,000 births

Read the full news release from the Missouri Hospital Association here