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Colorado Sees Spike In Newborn Opioid Addiction

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More babies are being born addicted to opioids in Colorado.

The opioid epidemic is affecting more and more Coloradoans every year, including the youngest members of our communities: babies.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the number of Colorado newborns born addicted to opioids jumped 83 percent from 2010 to 2015. The rate climbed from two births out of 1,000 to 3.6 births in during that five-year period.

Lindsey Myers, who oversees the department's violence and injury prevention mental health division, said one of the reasons for the spike is likely tied to an increase in heroin use and overdose.

“As we try to address prescription opioids and the misuse of those in Colorado communities,” she said. “Some people are turning to heroin and the risk of a newborn becoming addicted to opioids increases with heroin.”

Last year, 528 people died from opioid and heroin overdoses in Colorado.

Myers said pregnant woman using opioids should seek out medication assisted treatment like methadone.

“Sometimes women are reluctant to seek care out of fear of being stigmatized and shamed by providers,” she said. “But it is still really important to seek treatment because methadone treatment during pregnancy can be very effective and result in a mom having a healthy baby.”

To combat the increase in opioid-addicted babies, hospitals, medical professionals and child-welfare departments are working together to find solutions. Myers said a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary because the opioid epidemic is complicated — not only for pregnant women but for anyone addicted to opioids. 

“It’s not just treatment,” said Myers. “It’s also prevention and intervention and law enforcement strategies, etcetera, that all have to work together in order to combat this problem.”

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