New study shows number of West Virginia infants exposed to drugs in the womb is 10 times higher than national rate

West Virginia University experts on infant health looked at 34,412 births in West Virginia between 2020 and 2022, analyzing how many newborns were exposed to opioids, stimulants or cannabis in the womb and how those exposures relate to adverse health conditions such as low birthweights and preterm births. Credit: WVU / Greg Ellis

Nearly one in eight infants born in West Virginia between 2020 and 2022 had in utero exposure to opioids, stimulants and/or cannabis, according to researchers at West Virginia University Health Sciences.

Amna Umer, a pediatric research associate professor in the School of Medicine, said her team’s new study showed West Virginia’s rates of prenatal exposure to opioids and stimulants were 10 times higher than national rates.

To estimate the effects of in utero exposure to substances, the study used data from Project WATCH, a state-mandated surveillance tool that captures maternal and infant information on about 99% of all births…

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