Number of Dependent Newborns Grows Due to Prescription Drugs

Written by
Abraham Jaros
Updated on Monday, Mar 18, 2024

In a study recently released in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers found evidence to suggest that more babies are being born addicted to opiates than ever before. In fact, the findings were so dramatic that the lead author of the study called the problem a public health epidemic. In the study, researchers reviewed the birth records from more than 4,000 hospitals across the United States from the years 2000 to 2009. In that 10-year period, the researchers discovered the number of U.S. babies born with signs of addiction tripled from one in every 1,000 in the year 2000 to three in every 1,000 in 2009. That means an addicted baby is born every hour. Some medical professionals have been quick to point out that babies cannot be born addicted. Rather, they are born with bodies dependent on the drugs their mothers used during pregnancy. However, others believe doctors and potential medical malpractice is a major contributor to the problem. Some physicians may too easily prescribe powerful painkillers such as:

  • Vicodin
  • OxyContin
  • Dilaudid
  • Codeine
  • Morphine
  • Methadone

Though some babies are born to mothers with illegal drug addictions, many of the drug-dependent babies are born to mothers who legally use drugs prescribed by their physicians. Despite the type of drug, legal or illegal, the newborns are treated with a small dose of methadone to wean them from their drug dependence. Meanwhile they suffer short-term withdrawal effects, including mood swings, feeding difficulties and other debilitating symptoms. Without treatment, the babies can experience seizures or even death. The weaning process can take weeks or even months with stays in intensive care leading to soaring medical expenses. The high expenses associated with treatment for newborn addiction are taking a toll on parents and on health insurance programs including Medicaid. If a parent suspects his or her child was born with a drug dependency due to a doctor’s prescription, he or she may have the right to take legal action. Consulting an attorney experienced in personal injury cases may provide further information about potential legal claims and how to recover the compensation your family needs. Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Number of US newborns with drug withdrawal triples," April 30, 2012.

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