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Drug-related deaths continue to rise in United States



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There’s a problem of prescription opioid use among pregnant women. Published estimates indicate that 14%-22% of women filled an opioid prescription during pregnancy, Dr. Barfield said. Among pregnant women, the prevalence of maternal opioid use or dependence during hospitalization for delivery has increased 127%, from 1.7 /1,000 delivery admissions in 1998 to 3.9/1,000 delivery admissions in 2011 (Anesthesiology 2014;121[6]:1158-65). There also has been a significant increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is most commonly attributed to opioid exposure during pregnancy, from 1.2/1,000 U.S. hospital births in 2000 to 8/1,000 U.S. hospital births in 2014. “NAS is still on the rise,” Dr. Barfield said. “In 2012, we saw one baby with NAS born every 25 minutes. In 2014, that number jumped to one baby born with NAS every 15 minutes. That means about 96 infants with NAS are born daily,” she said. “Where do you think we’re going to be when we look at 2018 data?”

Role for pediatricians

Dr. Barfield closed her presentation by underscoring the role pediatricians play in counseling patients about opioid abuse or dependence during pregnancy. “We know that providers have a tremendous impact on patients and their families,” she said. “We also know that issues leading to a newborn having NAS are complex, so adopting a public health approach focused on prevention, expansion of treatment, and improvements in child welfare systems is vital.” Specifically, she said, health care providers can “bridge the gap” between clinical care and public health; lead in their communities, not just within their hospital or practice; work as a team member with colleagues in other fields of medicine such as obstetrics, family medicine, and addiction care when caring for infants with NAS, and by considering the social determinants of health.

“One way to adopt a public health perspective is to remember that the health of the fetus and baby rely on more than just prenatal care,” Dr. Barfield said. “We’re all part of a larger whole, surrounded by our families, communities, regions, state, and even our countries of origin. What’s going on with the mom, her family, and the larger community impacts the baby’s health. In other words, the social determinants of health matter, and are an important part of the conversation on NAS.”

She reported having no financial disclosures.

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