A lot of women used to smoke during pregnancy. It’s not something we’re proud of as a society, but with less information about how much it could affect the fetus, the behavior is something we can chalk up to a different era. After all, a woman in her third trimester can’t go anywhere near alcohol or cigarettes now without receiving death stares from every sensible person within a fifty foot radius. We know what smoking can do, and we collectively shun potential deviants into cooperation. Unfortunately, it seems in lieu of smoking, an entirely different epidemic has started rearing its ugly head.

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of defenseless babies born with symptoms of opiate withdrawal has nearly tripled in the last decade. One baby every hour now emerges from a womb jittery and shaking, and that’s just among those who are diagnosed. Many more minor cases aren’t even discovered.

According to CNN, the average baby born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome spends sixteen days in the hospital, and seventy-seven percent of those suffering babies are born to women on Medicaid, which means taxpayers are the ones footing the bill. The study argues the staggering increase can likely be traced back to the surge in opiate pain reliever prescriptions written over the past decade.

I have no idea why these women think popping pills during their pregnancies is okay, but just as with smoking, the public, specifically in areas where abuse is rampant, need to be educated as to the dangers. If they aren’t, this figure will be even more upsetting ten years from now.

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