Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)
According to a government report, the number of babies being born in the United States addicted to opioids has tripled in the last 15 years. This is because almost every drug passes from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the fetus. Illicit substances that cause drug dependence and addiction in the mother also cause the fetus to become addicted. At birth, the baby’s dependence on the substance continues. However, since the drug is no longer available, the baby’s central nervous system becomes overstimulated causing the symptoms of withdrawal.
Some drugs are more likely to cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) than others, but nearly all have some effect on the baby. Opioids, such as heroin and methadone, cause withdrawal in over half of babies exposed prenatally. Studies determined that there is a five-fold increase of babies born with NAS from 2000 to 2012. This equates to one baby suffering from opioid withdrawal born every 25 minutes. Newborns with NAS are more likely than other babies to also have low birth weight and respiratory complications.
- Crying more than usual
- Diffculty eating
- Shaking (tremors)
- Breathing faster than normal
- Diarrhea or more stools than normal
Also, outside stimuli can trigger babies with NAS. This trigger could even be their own mother’s smile.
Researchers still do not know the long-term effects of NAS. However, many are linking neonatal abstinence syndrome to:
- Behavior problems
- Memory and perception issues
- Unknown effects on IQ
- Otitis media
- Vision problems
- Motor development problems
- Behavioral and cognitive problems
- Risk of future drug use
- Risk of SIDS or SUID
However, the most significant long-term behavior effects are hyperactivity, impulsivity, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), aggressiveness, less social responsivity, poor social engagement and failure to thrive.
Specific treatment for NAS will be determined by your baby’s doctor based on:
- Medical History
- Extent of the disease
Babies suffering from withdrawal are irritable and often have a difficult time being comforted. Swaddling may help comfort the baby. Babies also may need extra calories because of their increased activity and may need a higher calorie formula. Intravenous (IV) fluids are sometimes needed if the baby becomes dehydrated or has severe vomiting or diarrhea.
Some babies may need medications to treat severe withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, and to help relieve the discomfort and problems of withdrawal. The treatment drug is usually in the same family of drugs as the substance the baby is withdrawing from. Once medical professionals control the withdrawal symptoms, they gradually decrease the dosage to help wean the baby off the drug.
Cost of NAS Treatment
Treating a baby with NAS can be costly. The hospital costs for newborns with NAS are $150,000 on average compared to $3,500 for those without NAS. NAS doesn’t just cost a family, but also the hospital as well. Medicaid pays for about 60% of NAS babies. Extended treatment could be up to $238,000.
It Isn’t Your Fault
Drug manufacturers lied to us about the addictive nature of opioids, and medical professionals prescribe them. Prescribing these drugs in high doses and for prolonged periods of time can lead to addiction and other devastating injuries. These include, among other adverse side effects, dependence, the craving to seek more drugs, use of other legal pain killers, use of other illegal drugs, and worst of all, overdose and death.
Doctors should only prescribe powerful opioid pain-killers such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, or methadone (drugs with common names such as Vicodin, Percocet, and OxyContin) for short term, intense pain, not to treat chronic pain conditions.
America’s opioid epidemic has affected, injured, or killed tens of thousands of Americans. It’s a national tragedy. All of these injuries could have been prevented. Drug manufacturers of opioid pain-killers have advertised their products as being less addictive than they actually are. Drug manufacturers have sometimes alleged that these drugs are safe to treat chronic pain. This marketing has lured scores of medication users and even doctors, into a false sense of security in using and prescribing such drugs.
If you or a loved one became addicted to an opioid, overdosed, hospitalized from an overdose, or used an opioid during pregnancy and the baby has a birth defect, contact us today. We have decades of experience going against pharmaceutical companies and drug manufacturers that produce unsafe products.