- Associated Press - Sunday, February 12, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin is seeing an increase in babies born dependent on opioids or other addictive drugs.

Data from the state Department of Health Services shows 598 babies were born addicted, a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, in 2015. That’s up from 142 in 2006.

The Wisconsin State Journal reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2lyF1I0 ) that the rate of babies born with NAS more than quadrupled during that time, from two cases per 1,000 births to 8.9 cases per 1,000 births.

The data shows the highest rates are in Ashland, Iron and Vilas counties, in northern Wisconsin.

The long-term impact on babies isn’t clear, but short-term consequences are significant. Babies struggle with withdrawal and have seizures, diarrhea, rapid breathing, difficulty feeding and other problems.

Doctors increasingly have a non-judgmental approach to treating pregnant women who use opioids, said Dr. Elizabeth Goetz, medical director of the newborn nursery at UnityPoint Health-Meriter. “Addiction is a chronic disease; it’s not a lifestyle choice,” she said.

“These are babies who can’t settle enough to sleep. You put them down in the crib and they’re just wild. You pick them up and they’re stiff,” she said.

A study in the December issue of the Wisconsin Medical Journal shows babies with NAS spend an average of 16 days in the hospital, resulting in a typical charge of $45,000. The infants are often treated in neonatal intensive care units, and many receive morphine to ease withdrawal and are weaned off the drug.

Nationwide, the NAS rate quadrupled from 1.5 per 1,000 births in 1999 to 6 per 1,000 births in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Wisconsin Association for Perinatal Care has been working on the problem for more than a decade, said Kyle Mounts, program director. He said in recent years, the group has worked on connecting addicted women of childbearing age to appropriate mental health care.

“I see neonatal abstinence syndrome and substance use disorders as indications that there are segments of the population that are not able to live to the kind of potential that we all wish people could,” Mounts said.

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj


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