Rising in Tandem: Opioids and Birth Defects

Opioids may be linked to a horrific birth defect where babies are born with their intestines hanging outside their body.

From 2011-2015, the prevalence of gastroschisis rose 10%, according to new CDC data. The condition, also associated with young mothers, was 60% more common in counties with the highest opioid prescription rates—and those are mainly rural areas.

The gastroschisis study doesn’t say that opioids cause birth defects nor does it evaluate mothers’ opioid use. Nevertheless, the findings demonstrate the need for further research into causal links between opioid exposure and birth defects.

Another round of CDC numbers from 2014-2017 found that the most rural areas had an 87% higher chance of being prescribed opioids compared to patients in large urban areas, AJMC reported. However, prescriptions were down across the country after federal chronic pain guidelines were rolled out.

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