Big Increase Seen In Babies Born Addicted to Narcotics

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Canadian study points to jump in prescription painkiller abuse in explaining trend

There was a 15-fold increase in the number of newborns experiencing opioid withdrawal in the Canadian province of Ontario between 1992 and 2011, researchers report.

Opioids, such as OxyContin, are powerful narcotic painkillers that carry a high risk of abuse and addiction, the study authors noted.

The incidence of opioid withdrawal among Ontario newborns rose from 0.28 per 1,000 live births to a little more than 4 per 1,000 over the study period, according to the findings published Feb. 11 in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Most of the babies were born to mothers who had been legally prescribed a narcotic painkiller before and during pregnancy, study author Dr. Suzanne Turner, a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said in a journal news release.

As their due date approached, many of those women switched from prescription narcotic painkillers such as codeine or OxyContin to methadone. In Canada, methadone is prescribed almost exclusively to people addicted to painkillers.

“Our findings suggest that most pregnant women treated with methadone over this time period were addicted to prescription [narcotic painkillers], not illegal drugs such as heroin, which is the common perception,” Turner said.

“While the women’s original prescriptions for [narcotic painkillers] may have been inappropriate, the fact that many of these women are being switched to methadone is a good thing,” she said.

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SOURCE: WebMD News from HealthDay
Robert Preidt

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