As more babies are born to mothers who are addicted to prescription painkillers, the costs related to diagnosis and treatment of these infants are rising, according to a new report.
The study looked at newborns born at a Florida hospital over three years.
The researchers found about 50 to 60 percent of babies born to mothers addicted to painkillers developed symptoms and complications related to withdrawal from opioid pain medication, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).
In the first year of the study, 40 babies were born exposed to painkillers. That number rose to 57 in the second year and 63 in the third year, HealthDay reports.
Babies who developed NAS stayed in the hospital an average of 23 days, compared with five days for painkiller-exposed babies who did not develop NAS.
The cost of treating newborns with NAS rose from $1.1 million in the first year to $1.5 million in the second year and $1.8 million in the third year.
Costs for treating babies with NAS were 15 to 16 times higher than costs for caring for healthy newborns, the study found.
In the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the researchers encourage doctors "to be proactive in screening for drug use, urging women who use chronic opioids to actively engage in family planning and contraception, and encouraging pregnant women who use opioids to seek substance treatment."
The researchers say that although some major medical groups have recommended universal screening for drug use during pregnancy, it is not yet standard practice.