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September 27, 2016

Analysis shows sharp spike in Pa. newborns hospitalized due to opioid abuse

The rate of hospital visits involving babies suffering from drug addiction has increased significantly in Pennsylvania, a new report revealed this week.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4) announced Tuesday that more newborns have been beginning life suffering from drug dependence over the last 15 years.

“These findings stress the alarming impact that substance use problems have on new mothers and babies in communities across the Commonwealth,” said Joe Martin, executive director of PHC4.

Substance abuse during pregnancy leads to a greater chance of premature births, low birth weight, respiratory distress and difficulty feeding.

The study evaluated hospital discharges from 2000 to 2015. During that time, the rate of hospitalization for newborns related to substance abuse increased by 250 percent. Last year, 2,691 cases were reported which accounted for 1 out of every 50 hospital stays.

NonePennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council/Source

Substance-related rate per 1,000 neonatal stays.


The most common reason for hospitalization was Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which is caused by a mother's use of opioids during pregnancy. NAS was present in 82 percent of hospital stays in 2015, an 870-percent increase since 2000.

Those stays added 28,000 hospitals days and cost an estimated $20.3 million.

Unsurprisingly, the rate of hospitalization for new mothers also increased. A total of 4,615 cases - or 1 in 30 stays - were documented in 2015, a 119-percent spike.

While stays relating to alcohol and cocaine dropped severely, opioid abuse remains a problem. Opioid drugs accounted for just over half of those stays for new mothers.

The PHC4 was created in 1986 by the state legislature to improve health care and limit cost.

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