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A surge in U.S infants born with symptoms of withdrawal from heroin or strong prescription painkillers is driven largely by rising drug use among women in rural areas, a new study found (Source: “Newborns pay price for rural drug woes,” Associated Press via Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 22, 2016).

The University of Michigan study, which was published in JAMA Pediatrics, estimates that about 21 percent of newborns in rural counties had withdrawal symptoms in 2013, up from 13 percent in 2004. The study shows the rate for affected rural newborns climbed six-fold — from about 1 per 1,000 births in 2004 to almost 8 per 1,000 births in 2013. By contrast, in urban areas the rate climbed from 1 per 1,000 to 5 per 1,000 births. The rates correspond with women’s use of opioid drugs during pregnancy. This includes use or misuse of oxycodone and other prescription opioid painkillers, and use of illegal narcotics.