HealthDay News — The number of infants born to American mothers who are chronic opioid users is rising, as are the costs of treatment of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), researchers report. The findings were published online in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Conducted over three years at one U.S. hospital, the study included 40 opioid-exposed newborns in the first year, 57 in the second year, and 63 in the third year. 

Researchers determined that 50 to 60% of the babies developed NAS.

These infants remained in the hospital after birth for an average of 23 days. 

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The average stay for opioid-exposed newborns without NAS was five days. The cost of treatment for newborns with NAS rose from $1.1 million in the first year to $1.5 million in the second year. In the third year, costs increased to $1.8 million. Compared to healthy newborns, costs to treat babies with NAS were 15 to 16 times higher.

“The societal costs associated with treatment of newborns with NAS, as well as infant symptomatology experienced with NAS, can be reduced by encouraging physicians 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 authors conclude.


1. Roussos-Ross K, et al. J Addict Med. 2015; doi: 10.1097/ADM.000000000000122