Tennessee on Jan. 1 will begin requiring hospitals to report babies born with addictions so it can better monitor a rising epidemic caused by mothers taking prescription narcotics, The Tennessean reports. “In the last two years, we’ve had in Tennessee more than 1,000 helpless babies, blameless babies born dependent on addictive drugs that their mothers used during pregnancy — some for chronic pain, some for treatment of addiction itself, some using these drugs illegally,” said Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. John Dreyzehner. The state plans to provide addiction treatment for people who need it, better control the availability of narcotics and take steps to prevent substance abuse and unintended pregnancy, he said.
One idea discussed is to program the state’s controlled substance database to flash a pink screen when narcotics are being prescribed to a woman of reproductive age. Doctors are required to report narcotic prescriptions in the database. The state will also look for better ways to treat at-risk mothers who are pregnant and care for addicted babies born with what doctors call neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS. Over a 10-year period, the incidence of addicted babies in Tennessee has risen from fewer than one per 1,000 births to 6.5 per 1,000 births. Taxpayers are picking up the cost for the 510 to 520 babies born each year in Tennessee with addictions. These babies end up staying in the hospital an average of 16.5 days, at a cost of $41,000, compared with $7,200 for a typical birth.