Colorado grapples with 80 percent jump in newborns going through opioid withdrawal

Pueblo hospital’s number of drug-addicted babies makes others “shudder.”

The Denver Post
Rachel holds her newborn baby Isabella and lovingly rubs noses together after a feeding in the NICU at UCHealth Memorial Hospital November 16, 2017. Isabella was born November 02, 2017, at 34-weeks and six days with a mild case of neonatal abstinence syndrome because of her mother's recovery from an opioid addiction. Rachel, 30, was taking a synthetic opioid prescription during her pregnancy as she recovered from an addition to heroin.
Andy Cross/The Denver Post

She was born early and tiny, at 5 pounds, 11 ounces, with chunky, pink cheeks and a dash of brown hair. Baby Isabella, 2 weeks old and swaddled in a hospital blanket, also was born addicted to opioids.

The preemie — who arrived Nov. 2 in Colorado Springs, about five weeks early — was one of six babies recently in the neonatal intensive care unit at UCHealth Memorial Hospital going through opioid withdrawals because of their mothers’ drug use.

The rise in Colorado newborns addicted to opioids has alarmed physicians and child advocates, jumping 83 percent from 2010 to 2015. The state’s rate, according to the Colorado health department, climbed from 2 births out of 1,000 to 3.6 births in that five-year period.

In some parts of Colorado, the rate is much higher. At Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, the city’s safety-net hospital that sees many Medicaid patients, the rate of newborns addicted to opioids skyrocketed from 0.7 per 1,000 in 2010 to 20.8 in 2012. The rate at Parkview now hovers around 10, and doctors have noted a shift from prescription drugs such as Oxycontin to street drugs, mainly heroin, in recent years.

Read more from The Denver Post.

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