Report shows newborns testing positive for drugs in Oklahoma



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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma hospitals are reporting an increasing number of newborns who tested positive for drugs or alcohol at birth, according to a report by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

The agency listed 375 addicted newborns in the 12-month period that ended June 30, based on the latest data available, The Oklahoman reported on Sunday (http://bit.ly/1BpSBMA ). Of those, 42 babies showed symptoms of withdrawal, which can include seizures, excessive crying, fever, sweating and vomiting.

Last year, DHS reported that 322 newborns tested positive for drugs or alcohol, indicating a 16.5 percent increase. But the data has only been collected and reported for two years, DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said.

"There could be an increase in the number of substance exposed newborns. Or, there could be an increase in the reporting of it," Powell said.

The data is approximate because mothers and newborns aren't routinely tested. Instead, hospital staff look for certain circumstances such as an expectant mother arriving at a hospital far from home with no explanation, no prenatal care, premature birth or labor, self-reported or physical signs of drug abuse, or a positive drug test during pregnancy.

Of the 375 drug-exposed newborns reported, DHS substantiated abuse or neglect in 187 cases. In 68 of the cases, the agency recommended removing the child from the home due to drug use.

While DHS is required by state law to compile the data on newborns exposed to drugs or alcohol, it is dependent on hospitals to report.

Hospitals in urban areas routinely report the prevalence of positive drug tests in newborns, but rural hospitals still lag in reporting, said Dub Turner, program administrator for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, which works with DHS to reduce the impact of drug-related crimes on children.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem. Among the newborns in the DHS report, 96 babies — or 21.6 percent — tested positive for prescription medications, nearly double the number in the 2013 report.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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The Associated Press

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