VIDEO: Babies born to drug-addicted parents are costly

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A local hospital has seen 100 to 200 babies a year monitored and/or treated for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome over the past five years.

Dr. Thomas Riley, director of neonatalogy at Sisters of Charity Hospital in Buffalo, has seen his share of drug-dependent babies.

“They can be inconsolable. They scream,” Riley said.

He said they become “frantic” and at times have “difficulty” bottle feeding.

“We give them just a small amount of morphine with each feeding and then wean that about every 48 hours depending upon what their scores are in the neonatal abstinence scoring system,” he said.

From 2000 to 2009 the number of infants diagnosed with drug withdrawal nationally nearly tripled, according to a study published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study, co-authored by Dr. Stephen Patrick, who at the time was affiliated with the University of Michigan, found that there was about one drug-dependent infant born per hour in the United States between 2000 and 2009.

The research data also found that the cost to care for drug-dependent babies dramatically increased from $190 million to $720 million over the same decade.

“All too often in our healthcare system we react to problems. Just like we do in the NICU,” said Patrick, now an assistant professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “We react to a big problem of prescription opioid use. But if we could use those dollars more upstream perhaps we could prevent. It would not only be cost saving, but also prevent harm to both babies and their mothers.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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