UT study finds Tennessee has work to do in preventing babies born addicted to opioids

Cropped Photo: Meagan / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 via MGN Online

NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A new study examining the impact of opioid use during pregnancy finds use is on the rise and Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a public health epidemic.

According to researchers from the University of Tennessee's College of Nursing and The University of Alabama's School of Public Health, newborns hospitalized due to drug withdrawal (NAS), saw a five-fold increase from 2004-2014.

During that time period, hospitalizations nationwide jumped from 1.5 for every 1,000 live births to 8.0 per 1,000 live births. In Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, NAS rates in 2015 were nearly 3 times the national average of 5.8 per 1,000 live births.

In Tennessee specifically, the study found some counties, especially northeastern counties, have annual NAS rates of 60 per 1,000.

Researchers then examined laws & regulations passed from 2001-2018 in Tennessee aimed at combating opioid addiction. Researchers found there were many pros and cons for social, practical, and legal factors. The laws were also intended to decrease opioid prescriptions, ensure access to prenatal care, provide substance abuse treatment for mothers, and make it tougher to get opioids.

However, researchers found while the laws aimed at decreasing opioid abuse, they fell short at reducing NAS.

The researchers hope the study will help lawmakers and health care providers work together in creating legislation which reduces NAS while still caring for the mother.

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