Columbus, OH,
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Columbus Dispatch: More Ohio Newborns Born Addicted to Drugs than Ever Before

A new report from the Ohio Department of Health suggests approximately 84 newborns are being treated for drug withdrawal in Ohio hospitals every day. This rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome – the medical term for withdrawal symptoms in newborns – is more than eight times what the rate was a decade ago.

Barry Halpern, MD, an OhioHealth neonatologist who has helped lead local efforts to care for pregnant users and their families, said the lagging awareness and availability of treatment is failing these mothers and babies.

“Eighty-four babies is a lot. And frankly, we have a neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) bed shortage,” Dr. Halpern recently told Columbus Dispatch reporter Rita Price. “There are times when there are no beds in the community, and babies need to be transferred. I think if we did a better job on the front end, we could have fewer babies in NICUs and better outcomes.”

At times, Ohio leads the nation in deaths from heroin and synthetic-opioid overdoses. Women who are pregnant while using drugs can double the harm if they do not get help quickly. Many expectant mothers are highly motivated to seek the help they need, but are often turned away or waitlisted.

Women who are pregnant move to the top of the list at treatment centers, but getting in still depends on someone else leaving. These women can choose to detox on their own while they wait, but that is extremely dangerous to do when pregnant.

Unfortunately, it is also difficult to expand programs that help this vulnerable population because there is a shortage of physicians who practice medication-assisted treatment and are willing to oversee the care of pregnant women.

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