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Tennessee to Begin Tracking Babies Born Drug-Dependent

A new study showing a major increase in Tennessee babies born addicted to drugs has prompted the state Health Department to require hospitals to report that information. A health department working group found the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, has increased ten-fold over the past decade.

NAS can result from a mother’s drug use, including alcohol and withdrawal drugs like methadone. Henry County Medical Center's Rhonda Carnell says it’s important for healthcare providers to know the signs.

“A baby can’t report to you, ‘I feel bad in this way,’ y’know, like an adult can," says Carnell. "So we have different physiological and neuro-behavorial things that we look at if we suspect it.”

Symptoms include high-pitched cries, tremors, fever and vomiting. Drug dependent babies require more hospital care. For NSA babies receiving TennCare benefits, the cost was five times more than for other babies.

Starting in January, Tennessee hospitals will report all NAS cases to help babies get faster and more accurate care.

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