Children whose mothers used opioids while they were pregnant continue to show cognitive and motor skill effects from the drugs through adolescence, according to a new study.
The opioid epidemic's victims are not just the people who develop addictions, but their families and even, the new study suggests, generations after them.
About every 15 minutes, a baby is born with opioid withdrawals, and opioid use among pregnant women is up five-fold in the US.
And, according to new research from the Royal Hospital for Women in Australia, children who were exposed to opioids in the womb may have lower IQs and are at a three-fold higher risk for a severe intellectual disability.
These brain effects of the drugs will follow them throughout life, likely limiting their financial and social success considerably.
New research suggests that the effects of opioid exposure in the womb are long-term and devastating. Through elementary school, kids whose mothers took the drugs while carrying them face a three-fold higher risk of intellectual disability, the new study suggests
Like other major epidemics, the opioid epidemic's effects are proving systemic in the US.
In 2017 alone, opioid overdoses claimed the lives of more than 70,000 Americans.
Scientists blame the opioid epidemic for single-handedly pushing life expectancy in the US down for the last three years in a row - the first such down turn in 25 years.
And we are only just beginning to understand the reach of its impact on the children of the epidemic.
We know that in just 10 years, the number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) increased by five-fold, hitting 32,000 babies born with the condition in 2014.
Children born with NAS often have lower birth weights, are more prone to have poorly developed lungs and trouble breathing and may have smaller than average heads.
We are still learning the long-term effects of NAS, although recent research suggests they may not perform as well in school.
But even if their exposures don't lead to NAS, the sensitive, developing brains and