The fact that opioids can lead to abuse and addiction and a host of side effects is well-established. Children born to mothers addicted to any drug during pregnancy often suffer from negative consequences that can last for a lifetime. This raises an alarm about the long-term side-effects of prenatal drug use of expecting mothers. The most detrimental outcome of this is the occurrence of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) a cumulative effect of problems that occur in new-borns who were exposed to addictive opioids, among other harmful substances, while in their mother’s womb. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the incidence of NAS, primarily due to the prevalence of opioid addiction, has increased by almost 300 percent from 1999 to 2013, rising from 1.5 to 6.0 cases per 1,000 hospital births.
The most effective way to avoid this situation is for the mother to practice abstinence if she is planning to get pregnant and if she is already carrying a baby. In case of negligence, whatever drugs that the mother might be using passes through the placenta and enters the baby’s system. Subsequently, the baby becomes dependent on the drug just as the mother is. If the mother continues to use prior to delivery, the baby will be dependent on the drug at birth and will also show signs of withdrawal symptoms. The bigger risk is that such babies carry problem of drug abuse even after they leave the hospital, as stated by Dr. Nadine Trainer, paediatrician and psychiatrist at East Tennessee Children Hospital.
Symptoms and treatment for NAS
Kids with NAS rarely sleep, at times they are up 24 hours a day. They also manifest other symptoms like aggression, impulsivity, mood disorder and behavioural problems. An earlier identification of the symptoms among infants of substance abusing mothers can be often made as early as between one and three days after birth. Short-term effects include mild fussiness, being irritable or jittery, feeding problems and diarrhea whereas long-term effects may include growth problems, unusual facial features and intellectual disability. Some drugs may also cause defects in the heart, brain, bowel or kidneys.
Treatment procedures for such symptoms depend on the drug the mother was using, the infant’s overall health and whether the baby was born full-term or prematurely. Since babies with NAS are often fussy and cry inconsolably, calming them with tender love and care that involves gently rocking the child, reducing noise and light as well as swaddling the baby in a blanket is advised. In case of severe symptoms, doctors advise treating the affected babies with medicines like phenobarbital and clonidine and also hospital stays for treating and monitoring the withdrawal symptoms. Phenibarbital suppresses the central nervous system (CNS) and clonidine “ameliorates the autonomic over-activity that occurs during NAS.” A combination of therapy and essential vitamins is also administered as part of the treatment.
However, prevention is better than cure. It is essential to raise awareness among women about the ill effects of drug use not just for their health but also for their children. Health care policies should be made more woman-friendly and treatment services should be easily accessible. Doctors should screen pregnant women and those planning to start their family for any possibility of drug use and their child being affected by NAS.
War on drugs
Drug addiction is a serious problem which can affect the life of the user as well as others child. Treatment should be sought at the earliest before the addiction takes complete control. Detox is the first step on the path of recovery. Once the body is cleansed of all the harmful toxins, medication and therapy can work better. But it is essential to opt for a detox program only under medical supervision as it involves a high chance of relapse.
NTR/NAD Detox of Arizona can provide more information about addiction and detox programs available at state-of-the-art detox treatment centers in Arizona. Call us on our 24/7 helpline (866) 593-8453 or chat with an expert to know more about various drug detoxification treatment centers in Arizona where a person can recover well under the guidance of trained staff in a compassionate environment.