More babies exposed to opioids in womb

WASHINGTON — The opioid epidemic is causing more babies to be exposed to drug abuse while they are still in the womb.

In addition to overdose and death, effects of the abuse of opioids include an increase of babies born going through opiate withdrawal.

Carl Ayers, director of family services with the Virginia Department of Social Services, went before the Virginia General Assembly to educate lawmakers about the surge in the number of babies born exposed to drugs, and said the number shot up 21 percent in fiscal 2016 over the previous year.

Ayers said that number will continue to go up, in part because of changes to federal law. The Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act, the guiding rules for child protective services at the federal level, have been changed to comply with changes in the Comprehensive Abuse and Recovery Act. Ayers said changes to CAPTA now require health professionals to report all children born with exposed to substance abuse, whether the drugs are illegal or legal.

“And the opioid epidemic … is a lot prescription drugs, not [just] illegal substance abuse. So that’s where you’re going to be seeing an increase in the reporting,” Ayers said.

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