opioid epidemic

One in 25 women hospitalized for a pregnancy-related reason tested positive for an illegal drug or a drug used to treat drug addiction in 2016-17 in Pennsylvania, according to a new report.

That’s a huge increase from 2000-01, when one in 69 tested positive, according to the report from the Pennsylvania Cost Containment Council.

The most prevalent drug among the pregnant woman was an opioid such as heroin or a prescription painkiller, with an opioid present among nearly half of the women who tested positive for a substance. The opioids include illegal opioids as well as legal opioids used to treat addiction. Opioids were present in only 1 in 329 of such hospitalizations in 2000-01.

The PHC4 found that the women who were opioid users were also more likely to deliver early, with about 48 percent delivering premature or early-term babies.

They were also more likely to have conditions including tobacco addiction, mental health disorders, Hepatitis C infections and slowed baby growth during pregnancy — all things that can harm the development and health of a baby.

An opioid addiction epidemic is gripping most of the United States, with Pennsylvania one of the most severely hit states.

The new PHC4 report sheds additional light on a subject that has previously drawn attention because of the number of babies born dependent on opioids because of exposure while in the womb. The babies are considered at further long-term risk because drug addiction might interfere with the mother’s ability to care for them, and expose them to other lifestyle-related harms.

“These findings continue to stress how important it is to focus attention on the opioid crisis. The impact on new mothers, and new babies as previous PHC4 findings have shown, is alarming,” Joe Martin, the executive director of PHC4, said in a news release.