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Dramatic Increases in Maternal Opioid Use and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

This is an infographic. See text below for details.

Text Description of Infographic

Use of opiates during pregnancy can result in a drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). A new study to determine the extent, context, and costs of NAS found that incidence of NAS is rising in the United States. There was a five-fold increase in the proportion of babies born with NAS from 2000 to 2012, when an estimated 21,732 infants were born with NAS —equivalent to one baby suffering from opiate withdrawal born every 25 minutes. Newborns with NAS were more likely than other babies to also have low birthweight and respiratory complications. The number of delivering mothers using or dependent on opiates rose nearly five-fold from 2000 to 2009, to an estimated 23,009. In 2012, newborns with NAS stayed in the hospital an average of 16.9 days (compared to 2.1. days for other newborns), costing hospitals an estimated $1.5 billion; the majority of these charges (81%) were paid by state Medicaid programs, reflecting the greater tendency of opiate-abusing mothers to be from lower-income communities. The rising frequency (and costs) of drug withdrawal in newborns points to the need for measures to reduce antenatal exposure to opiates.

Top Graph: Every 25 minutes, 1 baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawal.

Bottom Left Graph: Average length or cost of hospital stay graph.  Newborns with NAS stayed in the hospital for an average of 16.9 days compared to 2.1 days for those without NAS. The hospital costs for newborns with NAS were $66,700 on average compared to $3,500 for those without NAS.

Bottom Right Graph: NAS and maternal opiate use on the rise graph.

The rate of babies born with NAS per 1,000 hospital births was 1.2 in 2000, 1.5 in 2003, 1.96 in 2006, 3.39 in 2009 and 5.8 in 2012. The rate of maternal opiate use per 1,000 hospital births was 1.19 in 2000, 1.26 in 2003, 2.52 in 2006, and 5.63 in 2009.

References: Patrick et. Al., JAMA 2012, Patrick et. Al., Journal of Perinatology 2015

This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from the NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This page was last updated September 2015