A recent study has found that Massachusetts has three times than the nationwide rate of babies born with opiates in their systems.
The numbers, based on the hospital diagnosis data that is reported to the federal government, show that in 2013, 1,300 Massachusetts babies (or about 17.5 per 1000 births) were born having narcotics in their system.
The national average is five out of 1,000 babies born, which is based on the most recent data from the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is from 2012. This new study has made many wonder why Massachusetts has such a high rate of drug-addicted babies.
How the Numbers are Counted
One issue with previous records of the number of drug-addicted babies born is how these records are counted. The state's data only shows that 128 babies were born with narcotics in their system in 2013, a much lower number than the 1,300 found in the national study.
The state data is based on what is reported to the Department of Children and Families. Although state law mandates hospital staff to report all instances of any addicted newborns, it is possible that the actual number is underreported due to the fear that the child will be separated from the mother.
One spokesperson from the department said that the state's number only includes those who actually exhibit withdrawal symptoms. The national numbers are based on hospital diagnoses from 42 Massachusetts hospitals, which provide a more accurate assessment.
Reasons for the Increase
There are several reasons for the increase in drug dependent babies. One of the main reasons is the increase in drug abuse and addiction in the area. There is a high rate of opiate abuse in the New England area, especially the number of pregnant women who use prescription opiates.
That number is much higher than elsewhere in the country, which leads to an increase in drug-dependent babies. The high rate of drug abuse is largely due to over prescription of the drugs by doctors, as well as more drug dealers moving into new, largely untapped urban areas.
There is also an increase of availability of low-cost heroin due to a decrease of oxycodone abuse. Additionally, there is limited available of beds in detox and treatment facilities. This makes it difficult for expectant mothers to get the help they need prior to having their child, leaving the child to suffer the consequences.
A Growing Trend
It is not just Massachusetts that has a growing number of babies born drug-dependent. The numbers are rising across New England, especially in Maine and Vermont. In these areas, the numbers have increased tenfold in the past decade.
- Maine - has about 26.5 drug-dependent babies out of every 1000 births (based on data from 2011)
- Vermont - has a rate of 34.4 babies (based on data from 2012)
Overcoming the Hurdles
There are many hurdles that must be overcome to reduce the number of babies born with narcotics in their system. First and foremost, there needs to be better care to treat the mothers for their addiction, as well as fight the increasing rate of prescription drug addiction.
However, some of the biggest hurdles lie in caring for the babies themselves. Althougheveryone agrees about the seriousness of the problem, there is no set way to treat the babies. There is also no set way to tally the most comprehensive data to help see the full extent of the problem to develop a comprehensive solution.
Some states are working on a coordinated treatment program and data collection, while other states do not even require the recording of drug-dependent babies.