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Drug overdoses in pregnant and postpartum women hit record high

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Public health officials warn fentanyl remains the deadliest drug threat facing our nation and according to a new study, pregnant and postpartum women are now falling to the highly addictive synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin.  

Using a national database, researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health looked at pregnancy-related death certificates between 2017 and 2020. An estimated 7,500 deaths occurred. Over 1,200 were marked as drug overdose deaths mainly from fentanyl, meth, and cocaine. The highest number of deaths were in 2020. 

Authors say several factors played a role in the record spike. 

“Pregnant and postpartum people are known to face barriers to accessing drug treatment and harm reduction services, that when compounded by pandemic-associated stressors, health care shutdowns, and an increasingly volatile unregulated drug supply, may have increased fatal overdose risk,” lead study author, Emilie Bruzelius, said in a news release.

The study was published in JAMA.