Opioid addiction among new mothers has quadrupled


The opioid crisis, as we know, is exploding. I don’t know quite why this is, but it seems that when addiction or disease trends really begin to hit a very low point, the media begins to talk about the children born from mothers with those diseases or addictions. Think of the crack babies and AIDS babies when those crises were at a peak of concern.

We are now apparently at that point with the opioid crisis. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has just released results of the first multi-state analysis of how drug use is impacting women when they are pregnant and about to give birth. 

The CDC said that the number of women with what they call “opioid use disorder” at labor and delivery quadrupled between 1999 and 2014. The results of their study were published on Aug. 9 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, if you want to find it; go to the CDC website.

The definition of opioid use disorder, according to the agency’s press release on the study, is “a problematic pattern of opioid use that can result in health problems, disability, or failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home. 

“OUD during pregnancy has been associated with a range of negative health outcomes for both mothers and their babies, including maternal death, preterm birth, stillbirth, and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).”

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is when babies are born addicted and then have to go through withdrawal. If that’s hard for adult addicts, just imagine what it’s like for a fragile little newborn; imagine if that were your first experience of life outside the womb. 

Twenty-eight states were included in the study. Those with the lowest increase in opioid use disorder were Hawaii and California. The states with the most dramatic increase were Maine, New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Nationwide the average went from about 1.5 mothers at delivery out of 1,000 with opioid use disorder in 1999 to 6.5 per 1,000 in 2014.  The states with the highest rate were Vermont, where there were 48.6 per 1,000; and West Virginia, where there were 32.1 per 1,000 hospital births.

As a result of the study, the CDC will work to try and support mothers with addictions before birth and after. One of their priorities will be to ensure that “mothers with opioid use disorder receive adequate patient-centered postpartum care, including mental health and substance use treatment, relapse-prevention programs and family planning services.”

The press release quotes CDC Director Robert R. Redfield,who said, “These findings illustrate the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic on families across the U.S., including on the very youngest. 

“Untreated opioid use disorder during pregnancy can lead to heartbreaking results. Each case represents a mother, a child and a family in need of continued treatment and support.