In the last five years there have been 110 cases of babies and toddlers, whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy, and later died preventable deaths, according to Reuters.
In each case, the babies recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital, but were sent home to families not equipped to care for them, the article notes.
The number of babies treated for the drug-withdrawal syndrome known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has almost quadrupled in the last decade, according to a study published earlier this year.
Babies born with NAS undergo withdrawal from the addictive drugs their mothers took during pregnancy, such as oxycodone, morphine or hydrocodone. NAS affected seven babies for every 1,000 admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit in 2004. That number jumped to 27 infants per 1,000 by 2013.
A federal law calls on states to safeguard these infants after they leave the hospital, but that effort is failing, Reuters notes.
Of the 110 children who died, more than 40 of them suffocated, and 13 died after swallowing toxic doses of methadone, heroin, oxycodone or other opioids.
When Congress passed the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act in 2003, there were about 5,000 drug-dependent babies in the United States, the article notes. In 2013, there were more than 27,000 diagnosed cases of drug-dependent newborns, Reuters calculated.
Under the law, health care providers are supposed to alert child protection authorities so that social workers can check in on families once they are home. Most states ignore that provision. Reuters found at least 36 states don’t require doctors to report all cases. Only nine states and the District of Columbia have such laws.