Opiate Addiction in Newborns

Opiate Addiction in Newborns


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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS); a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to an addictive opiate.

Examples: Heroin, Codeine, Oxycodone, Oxycontin, and Methadone

Thousands of babies a year, across the U.S become victim to drug addiction passed on from mother to child. After ingested, drugs pass through the placenta into the unborn baby. After birth withdrawal symptoms may occur as the drug(s) are cleared from the babies body.

Withdrawal Symptoms Include:

  • Discoloration of skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive or high pitched crying
  • Excessive sucking
  • Fever
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Sleep problems
  • Slow weight gain
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

The severity of NAS depends on a few different factors. These factors may include the type of drug and how the body processes it. It also includes how much of the drug was used and for how long. Another depending factor is what gestational age the baby is when born (full-term or premature).

Treatment may include but not limited to; observation of the baby after birth from one week to six months, possible intravenous fluids, and lots of tender, love and care. In more severe cases, methadone or morphine can be used to ease withdrawals and slowly transition to wean off.

The use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco can lead to many more health problems in babies as well. The newborn may have delays in development and growth as they mature. The use of alcohol during pregnancy can result in birth defects, premature birth, and low birth weight. A baby exposed to these factors has a higher chance of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

There are some ways to prevent NAS and keep you and your child safe. Inform your physician of all medicines, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco you take. If you engage in taking medication or illicit drugs not prescribed to you, talk to your health care provider about ways to keep you and your baby healthy.