Many hospitals in Cincinnati have recently mandated drug testing of new mothers and infants.
Why? In Ohio, there has been an 841% increase in the number of expectant mothers found to have an opioid addiction in the last decade, according to state health officials. In Cincinnati, drug testing has been universal since late 2013 as the number of newborns exposed to addicting drugs quadrupled to 46 infants per 1,000 births.
The epidemic doesn’t stop in Ohio. Around 11% of babies nationwide are born to mothers with substance abuse other than nicotine and alcohol. The recent trend has been consistent with prescription drug addiction.
The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the number of newborns addicted to painkillers has tripled in the last decade.
This study indicated that 3.4 of every 1,000 babies born suffered withdrawals associated with narcotic pain medications. This withdrawal experienced by newborns as a result of their mother’s drug abuse is know as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). NAS typically causes irritability, poor feeding and diarrhea in the first few days after birth. (Ohio reported a 760% increase in NAS in the last decade.) However, the true impact on the infant is dependent on the type of drug, dosage and how long the mother abused it during the pregnancy. The mother’s prenatal health also plays a factor.
For infants exposed to drugs in the womb, life begins in rehab. Drug treatment usually requires at least 13Drug treatment for some infants usually requires about 13 days in the hospital after birth. Other infants, although they test positive for drugs, are not symptomatic and therefore do not require treatment immediately after birth. These infants require medication that can take weeks to counter the effects.
In Ohio, mothers are asked to take part in the drug testing program and if they refuse, the newborn will be tested. The women who test positive for drugs are not necessarily subject to criminal prosecution. (But in Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina, mothers using illegal drugs during pregnancy are subject to prosecution.)
The state of Ohio has devoted around $1 million towards the drug testing initiative.