Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Costs Increasing, According to Three-Year Study’s Findings

According to a three-year study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida and recently published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, the costs associated with treating infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) are steadily rising.

Treatment costs for the newborns increased from $1.1 million to $1.8 million annually according to results from the study, which occurred from December of 2008 to November of 2011. Overall costs to treat babies with NAS were around 15 to 16 times higher than costs for healthy newborns.

The average hospital stay for newborns with NAS was 23 days – much longer than the five-day average for opioid-exposed newborns without NAS, as well as the average of one to two days for healthy babies without NAS. Of the 160 newborns included in the study, 95 were exposed to buprenorphine or methadone, and 49 were exposed to various short-acting opioids taken illicitly by the mother.

Authors of the study wrote that “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.”


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