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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Vanderbilt Study Examines Neonatal Implications of Prescription Drug Epidemic

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), a drug withdrawal syndrome in infants following birth, has historically been associated with illicit drug use among pregnant women. But a study by a team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center shows that pregnant women are commonly being prescribed opioids which results in an increased likelihood of NAS.

[Photo: Dr. Stephen Patrick]

The study, “Prescription Opioid Epidemic and Infant Outcomes,” looked at three years of data from Tennessee’s Medicaid program and assessed records for 112,029 pregnant mothers. An estimated 28 percent of the women, or 31,354, were prescribed and filled at least one opioid pain reliever. Of the babies with NAS, 65 percent had mothers that legally filled prescriptions for opioid pain relievers. Results were published today/April 13 in the journal Pediatrics.

“We found that babies exposed to opioids pain relievers were more likely to be born preterm, have complicated births, low birth weight and have complications such as meconium aspiration syndrome (a sign of infant distress at birth) and respiratory distress,” said lead author Dr. Stephen Patrick, assistant professor of pediatrics and Health Policy in the Division of Neonatology with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“Historically, drug withdrawal for newborns has been described among illicit drug use such as heroin or women treated for previous opioid abuse, but this is really one of the first studies to look at legal prescriptions for pregnant women. And it draws attention to what is going on in our nation,” Dr. Patrick said.

This announcement was published in Reporter.

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