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More Newborns Treated for Drug Withdrawal

The number of newborns getting treated for narcotic withdrawal has sharply increased in the last decade, a new study suggests. The study looked at neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is a group of symptoms that affect newborns who were exposed to narcotics in the womb. These can be illegal drugs such as heroin. They also can be prescription opioid drugs such as oxycodone. In 2004, 7 of every 1,000 newborns were treated in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) for this condition. By 2013, that had risen to 27 of every 1,000. These newborns also stayed longer in the hospital. They accounted for 7 times as many NICU days in 2013 as in 2004. The average hospital stay rose from 13 to 19 days. The study was based on information from 299 NICU units in the United States. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study online April 26.

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