Opioid-dependent babies in Mass. are triple the national rate - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Opioid-dependent babies in Mass. are triple the national rate

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More babies are being born in Massachusetts with heroin and other opioid addictions than any other state in the country.

Dr. Rachana Singh, of Baystate Medical Center, says the problem has really picked up over the past few years.

Federal data says about 1,300 babies were born in Massachusetts with opioids in their system last year. This is triple the national rate.

Over the last few years Baystate has seen the number of babies dependent on opioids being admitted into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) increase.

"This is because of moms being on opioids for a number of different reasons," Dr. Singh said.

Some on them for pain, others who are addicted.

"In the last few years, the numbers have actually kind of tripled for what we are seeing at Baystate itself," Dr. Singh said, adding the average number of babies born with withdrawal symptoms at Baystate is 15-17 babies per 1,000 live births. "If you compare those statistics to about six or seven years ago, the number was probably about seven to eight live births."

Baystate and Massachusetts' rates are well above the national average of three or four per 1,000 live births.

"All of those babies are at high risk of some form of either neuro-cognitive or neuro-behavioral issues," Dr. Singh said.

Withdrawal symptoms include babies being inconsolable, tired, jittery, having poor feeding habits, and stunted growth.

While there is not a lot of data on how addiction at birth will affect a baby later in life, Dr. Singh says more research will be done.

"The good thing is with the increase in the numbers there is a bigger focus on it, so people are now actually looking into what the long term intelligence outcomes are going to be," Dr. Singh said.

Baystate has improved the way they handle mothers on opioids since the increase.

"To be a little bit more accepting and nonjudgmental of our moms who are coming in with either chronic pain issues and being on medications or who are in rehab because if we are able to stand in their shoes and understand where they are coming from we will probably be able to engage them more," Dr. Singh said.

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