May 3, 2012
One of the biggest health news stories of the year has put College of Medicine alumnus Stephen W. Patrick’s name in headlines worldwide.
Patrick (M.D., ’07) was the lead author of a recent Journal of the American Medical Association article on an epidemic of prescription opiate abuse and the effects on infants born to mothers who abuse the drugs.
“These medications provide superior pain control for cancer and chronic pain,” JAMA said in an accompanying editorial, “but have been overprescribed, diverted, and sold illegally, creating a new opiate addiction pathway and a public health burden for maternal and child health.”
Patrick, who is practicing neonatal-perinatal medicine in his fellowship at the University of Michigan, has been featured in numerous interviews this week.
“We looked at neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is a drug withdrawal syndrome that newborns experience after they're born,” Patrick said in a May 1 conversation with Ray Suarez on “PBS NewsHour.” “It usually happens after newborns have been exposed to opiates during the pregnancy.
“So over the last decade, from 2000 to 2009, we found that the rate of babies diagnosed with drug withdrawal grew by three-fold. In 2009, we noted that more than 13,000 babies were born with drug withdrawal, or about one baby born per hour.
“Opiates are a broad class. So it includes everything from heroin to opiate pain relievers like Vicodin and even methadone.”
At the conclusion of their JAMA article, Patrick and his co-authors wrote that “newborns with NAS experience longer, often medically complex and costly initial hospitalizations. The increasing incidence of NAS and its related health care expenditures call for increased public health measures to reduce antenatal exposure to opiates across the United States.”
Read the JAMA article.
Watch Newborns Addicted to Painkillers: Study Finds Spike on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.