The number of women giving birth while addicted to opioids more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, according to new data published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The data illustrates, among other things, “the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic on families across the U.S., including on the very youngest,” said CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield. “Each case represents a mother, a child, and a family in need of continued treatment and support.”
To compile the numbers, researchers analyzed 15 years of data from 28 states. In 1999, 1.5 out of every 1,000 babies born were delivered by women suffering from opioid addiction. In 2014, that number reached 6.5 babies per 1,000 births. There were broad differences across states in the number of women giving birth while addicted. Vermont saw the highest rate, with 48.6 cases of opioid use disorder for every 1,000 deliveries. The numbers were the lowest in the District of Columbia, where 0.7 out of 1,000 deliveries were by addicted women.
The risks of opioid use disorder during pregnancy include stillbirth and neonatal abstinence syndrome, the name given to the withdrawal-like symptoms babies face after being born to an addicted mother. Babies facing neonatal abstinence syndrome can experience seizures, breathing problems, and developmental issues. They’re often required to spend weeks in the hospital and can need methadone treatments to ease symptoms.
In other opioid research published this week, a new study out of Massachusetts suggests a link between manual labor and dying of an opioid overdose. The study examined the state’s 5,580 overdose deaths from 2011 and 2015 and found that construction workers were six times likelier than the average worker to die of an overdose. People working in the fishing, farming, and forestry industries were also shown to be more likely, on average, to fall victim to opioids.
In trying to determine why these sectors face more overdose deaths, the authors of the study hit on a couple primary factors. First, there’s the pain and frequent injuries faced by laborers. That pain is often managed with opioids. Since employees in these sectors also tend to have low job security, substandard pay, and no paid sick leave, those opioids are often abused as workers pump pills so they can keep working.
Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, told the Boston Herald there a few things the state should do to address this problem, such as require “employers to keep five years of workplace injury records, increase access to paid sick leave and empower unions.”
“These are steps we can take right now to help end all this needless suffering and loss,” she said.