Attorney General Wants Action On Prenatal Drug Exposure

Treating babies who were exposed to addictive drugs in the womb cost Indiana hospitals $30 million in 2011.

baby in icu

Photo: Jim Lynch (flickr)

Newborns who are exposed to addictive drugs while in the womb often must be treated for addiction after they are born.

Correction: The $30 million the Attorney General cited as the cost of NAS treatment referred to money spent in 2010, not 2011 as originally reported.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is calling on the legislature to help reduce the number of babies being exposed to narcotics while still in the womb.

It is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, newborns exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs before they are born.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller says treating NAS at Indiana hospitals cost an estimated $30 million in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, and he says that’s with limited tracking because hospitals are not required to report the condition.

Zoeller says one solution is requiring pregnant women take drug tests to identify the problem and start treatment before birth.

“You can reduce the length of stay for the newly born baby from six weeks to two weeks, the better health of the baby as well as the costs,” he says.

State Senator Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, says the legislature is exploring different options because of concerns about mandatory drug tests.

“Verbal screening as opposed to the kind of blood or urine analysis that might drive women away from getting prenatal care,” she says, adding that a definitive answer has not been reached and a legislative panel will continue to investigate the issue leading up to next session.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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