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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

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NAS Causes Infants Pain and Discomfort
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the number of pregnant mothers using opiates has increased from 1.19 to 5.63 for every 1,000 births per year. As the number of expectant mothers using opiates rises, so does the number of infants born with opiate dependence or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The symptoms of NAS cause the infant much pain and discomfort and, in some cases, can be fatal. An estimated 13,500 newborns were born with NAS in 2009 and, sadly, that number rises every year.

Pregnant Opiate Addicts

Opiate addicts abuse drugs such as heroin, morphine and codeine. These drugs relieve moderate to severe pain and cause a euphoric effect when taken in large doses. Some women use opiates because their euphoric effect offers an exit from reality. This escape can be from issues like stress, dysfunctional relationships, mental illness, poverty or abuse. Other women begin using opiates for legitimate, medical reasons and become addicted. The reason for each individual addiction may be different but what remains the same is that addiction is difficult to break. Pregnancy raises the stakes for an addict and makes addressing the addiction essential. Pregnant women are not advised to abruptly stop using opiates on their own as they will experience opiate withdrawal, which may result in miscarriage or stillborn birth. It is recommended that the expectant addict be placed on medically monitored methadone maintenance treatment for her addiction. However, even a low dosage of methadone can create dependence in the fetus, who is receiving the drug as well as the mother.

Born Addicted

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is a condition in which newborns experience withdrawal symptoms for drugs they were exposed to in the womb. Many factors impact the symptoms of NAS such as:

  • Type of drug the mother used
  • Dosage of drug used
  • Length of time the drug was used
  • When the drug was last consumed
  • Whether the baby was born prematurely or at full term

Drugs are passed to a fetus through the placenta during pregnancy. Babies can become dependent on any drugs that their mother is taking. A mother’s drug use can also result in stillbirths and birth defects. Symptoms of NAS may present themselves as early as 72 hours or as late as 2 weeks after birth. Symptoms of NAS include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Problems sleeping/Restlessness
  • Problems eating/Slow weight gain
  • Trembling
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures

Long-term effects of NAS can lead to developmental issues affecting a child’s behavior and cognition. It also increases a person’s risk of becoming an addict at a later age.

Treatment for Opiate Addicted Infants

Treatment for an infant diagnosed with NAS differs depending on the amount of opiates the mother used and the last time she used them. Doctors recommend soothing the baby by:

  • Reducing light exposure
  • Reducing surrounding noise
  • Avoiding unnecessary handling
  • Maintaining the infant swaddled
  • Frequently feeding the baby small amounts of high calorie formula

Weaning an infant off of opiates requires the administration of small doses of methadone. This process can take several weeks or months, resulting in a long and expensive stay in an intensive care unit. According to theJournal of the American Medical Association, around-the-clock care for an infant with NAS can cost between $39,400 and $53,400. This can be a problem for an addicted mother, especially since addiction may have already caused her financial hardship. NAS is one of many reasons why women must address their addiction prior to becoming pregnant, if possible. Seeking addiction treatment from a drug rehab facility is imperative as it will help break the cycle of addiction.

Call Now and Make the Best Choice of Your Life

If you or a loved one is pregnant and suffering from an opiate addiction and would like help finding the best drug treatment center to fit your needs, please call a Stepping Stone Center addiction specialist now at 866-957-4960. Our trained addiction professionals are able to answer any questions that you may have regarding addiction treatment and the admissions process into our drug rehab facility.


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