The United States is currently in the midst of an opioid epidemic that has hit states in the southern New England regions particularly hard — with Massachusetts as one primary example. One of the many unfortunate results of the epidemic is a dramatic upsurge in cases of opioid dependency by expectant women that result in children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). NAS is a clinical syndrome that occurs when a newborn suffers withdrawal symptoms as a consequence of abrupt discontinuation of prenatal substance exposure. The expenses of treating and rehabilitating these drug-dependent newborns, predominantly shouldered by state taxpayers, are extremely costly, with a mean cost per stay of $93,400 for pharmacologically-treated cases.
This Article illustrates a policy, grounded in facilitative principles, designed to reduce incidents of NAS. Key components to the solution’s success should rely on early identification of opioid abuse or dependence during pregnancy, as well as adherence to a standardized protocol implemented uniformly throughout public hospitals state-wide. The Article concludes by reemphasizing the importance of acting promptly and assertively to protect society’s most vulnerable members from the tragic epidemic.
Ho, Jeremiah A. and Rovzar, Alexander Owen, Preventing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome within the Opioid Epidemic: A Uniform Facilitative Policy (September 21, 2016). Harvard Journal on Legislation, 2017