In this brief, author Kristin Smith analyzes inpatient hospital discharge data (2012–2015) to assess the prevalence of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in New Hampshire; describes one hospital’s successful program for treating pregnant women and newborns; discusses how comprehensive and coordinated care and home visiting services provided through community based organizations can support new mothers and families; and discusses how a recent change to New Hampshire law intended to support child protection may be having unintended consequences. She reports that in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, the number of infants diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in New Hampshire increased fivefold, from 52 to 269. In 2015, 2.4 percent of New Hampshire births were diagnosed with NAS, and that number is projected to rise, with implications for early intervention programs, early education programs, and primary schools. Children born drug-exposed are at increased risk for behavioral health problems, especially if their parents continue using. Policies and programs should not consider opioid addiction in isolation, but rather as one interconnected symptom within a larger context. Both alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy have proven negative health consequences for children, and the adverse effects on children are magnified when combined with opiates. Getting mothers on a path to recovery is a formidable challenge facing our state, but one that ultimately will help children and promote family unity.

Publication Date

Winter 12-19-2017


Regional Brief #51


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2017. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.