Opioid Addiction in Newborns

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Innocent Victims

The number of drug addicted babies born in the US as the result of the drug abuse epidemic that has taken America by storm, is heartbreaking. The pain of a helpless baby, who is trembling, sweating, or vomiting uncontrollably is close to impossible to imagine. Yet, this is a sad reality, affecting thousands of newborns each and every day in the United States alone.

The intense withdrawal symptoms hold millions of opioid addicts in fear and prevents them from quitting cold-turkey. At the same time, the afflicted babies do not have that choice. They have to suffer pain and life-threatening conditions, which go hand in hand with withdrawal.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Since the number of adults who fall prey to painkiller and heroin dependence is constantly on the rise,

marking a record number of opioid abuse deaths back in 2014, so is the number of infants born who are suffering from addiction. And, as they are no longer receiving the abused substances through the mother’s placenta, shortly after birth they are exposed to devastating withdrawal symptoms.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (or NAS), refers to a group of problems and challenges which a newborn faces after exposure to addictive substances in the mother’s womb during pregnancy. As the infant also becomes dependent on the drug prior to being born, the discontinued supply results in a whole host of really grave symptoms, which the delicate, tiny organism has to endure. Fever, convulsions, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, difficulty sleeping and an insessant cry are just a few on the list. Cocaine, for example, might cause the mother’s waters to break preterm, and her baby is at a higher risk for brain damage, stroke, limb deformities and long-term behavioural problems.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms can be as soon as 24 hours after birth or as late as 10 days. Sypmtoms will vary, and severity will depend on a lot of factors, such as the type of substance abused, time it was last used, and whether the baby was born prematurely or not.

Alcohol is Also a Culprit

Everything a woman consumes during pregnancy is passed on to the baby through the placenta. That said, it should be noted that there is no amount of alcohol considered safe for the baby, not just drugs.

That is why it is advisable that pregnant women should stop abusing whatever substances they are accustomed to taking, in order to prevent birth defects and a substance dependence in the baby. Find out about options to do so at Detox.com The measures should continue even post-partum, while the mother is breastfeeding.

Alcohol abuse, just like drugs, can lead to low birth weight, miscarriage, intellectual disability, proneness to falling ill, even death sometimes. The reason for that is because alcohol cuts off nutrient and oxygen supply to the developing organs. Its consumption during pregnancy often leads to the development of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which is accompanied by a varied range of crippling physical and intellectual development delays.

What Measures Should Be Undertaken?

While many law markers believe that substance abuse during pregnancy should be punishable and treat endangering the life and safety of an unborn child as a criminal act, punishing addicted pregnant mothers is not going to stop the substance abuse. But it is likely to discourage them from seeking help.

Specialized addiction recovery facilities provide treatment to those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. Rehabilitation centers save lives and help keep families together. Every day in which measures are postponed makes recovery and sobriety a longer and more difficult journey for the affected.