HealthDay News — According to a new report prepared for the US Congress by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there was a nearly 5-fold increase in the number of infants born each year to American women who used opioids during pregnancy over the past decade. There was also a dramatic rise in the number of infants born with a dependency on opioids. 

The number of infants born to women who had used opioids increased annually from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1000 hospital births between 2000 and 2009, in the United States. Overall, women of childbearing age who were pregnant were less likely to have used an opioid recently (1%) compared to non-pregnant women (3%). Still, even that 1% figure translates to an average of about 21,000 pregnant women using opioids for non-medical reasons in the past month, the report’s authors said.

Younger women are significantly more likely to use opioids for non-medical reasons during pregnancy. Those aged 15 to 17 had the highest use (2.8%), while women between 18 and 25 had the next highest rates (1.5%).

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In contrast, among pregnant women over 25, only 0.5% had used opioids for a non-medical reason in the past month, the authors found. Of the 21,553 who were pregnant when admitted for substance abuse treatment in 2012, 22.9% reported heroin use, while 28.1% reported using a non-heroin opioid.

“It is critical that pregnant women of all ages have access to prevention, treatment and recovery services that meet their specialized needs,” Kana Enomoto, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use at SAMHSA, said in an agency news release. 

“Programs that provide pregnant women with access to opioid use disorder treatment and reproductive health services can help ensure that these future mothers and their children live healthier, happier and more productive lives.”


New Report Examines the Non-Medical Use of Opioids Among Women of Childbearing Age [press release]. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; January 17, 2017.

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