According to a newly published study in JAMA, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) increased 82%, from 4.0 to 7.3 per 1000 birth hospitalizations in the U.S. between 2010 and 2017. The researchers also found that during the same time-period maternal opioid-related diagnoses increased 131%, from 3.5 to 8.2 per 1000 discharge hospitalizations. The greatest increases were observed among low income, non-Hispanic whites. West Virginia had the highest rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (54 per 1000) while Vermont had the highest rate of maternal opioid-related diagnoses (47 per 1000).

Drug Free America Foundation Epidemiologist Dr. Sharif Mohr said, “Given the gravity of the opioid epidemic from 2010-2017, these alarming results are, sadly, not surprising. What I find inexcusable is the lack of political will to establish a national monitoring system to collect data on NAS so that stakeholders can quickly mount effective policy responses and interventions. There is often a significant lag in availability of public health data accessible to researchers in the US. Other upper and even middle-income countries are able to provide their researchers and policymakers with up-to-date public health data. There is no reason the same can’t be done in the US. It is just a question of realigning misguided priorities. Public health is the most impactful, yet paradoxically, most neglected part of our Frankenstein  sick-care system.”