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Rural Communities See Steep Increase in Babies Born with Opioid Withdrawal

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The number of babies born with drug withdrawal symptoms from opioids grew substantially faster in rural communities than in cities, a new study suggests.

Newborns exposed to opioids in the womb and who experience withdrawal symptoms after birth (known as neonatal abstinence syndrome) are more likely to have seizures, low birth weight, breathing, sleeping and feeding problems.

The study, published today in JAMA Pediatrics, highlights a dramatic and disproportional rise in opioid-related complications among rural pregnant women and their infants. Researchers from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University tracked newborns treated for opioid-related issues over 10 years.

They found that in rural areas, the rate of newborns diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome increased from nearly one case per 1,000 births from 2003-2004 to 7.5 from 2012-2013. That’s a surge nearly 80 percent higher than the growth rate of such cases in urban communities.

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