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Health experts gathered this week in Kentucky to discuss how to deal with the problem of babies born to drug-dependent mothers, according to The Courier-Journal. Hospitalizations for newborns in the state with neonatal abstinence syndrome climbed from 29 in 2000, to 730 in 2011.

The experts noted some progress, including a statewide reduction in the number of controlled substances dispensed in 2012. They are also hopeful that more pregnant women will receive substance abuse treatment under the Affordable Care Act beginning next year.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome can cause constant high-pitched crying, vomiting, diarrhea, low-grade fever, seizures and tremors, the article notes. Premature babies with the syndrome may experience respiratory distress and are put on ventilators.

David Hopkins, Program Manager of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting program, said the state’s prescription drug abuse law, passed in 2012, is starting to have a positive effect. The number of controlled substances dispensed dropped to 11.17 million last year, from 11.73 million the previous year.

The state is considering expanding a program that helps women at risk of delivering a baby with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the article notes.

In neighboring Tennessee, the number of babies born to mothers addicted to opioids or anti-anxiety medication is soaring. Tennessee is believed to be the first state that requires all health care facilities to report all cases of babies born dependent on drugs, officials say. They estimate almost 1,200 babies were born dependent on drugs in the state in 2010 and 2011.

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