Opioid Abuse Harms Babies

Abuse of and addiction to opiate drugs is at record breaking heights in America. Prescription painkiller abuse often leads to heroin addiction or abuse of other opiate drugs. Recently, synthetic opioids like Fentanyl have seen a growth in overdose and addiction. Opiates are highly addictive due to the rapid rate at which they can create a dependency in a user. When a pregnant woman abuses opiate drugs it not only affects her but also her unborn child. Just as the mother becomes dependent on opiate drugs, the child too becomes dependent. Even when a mother is actively trying to manage her opiate addiction by using medications such as methadone, her baby can suffer. Consequently, when the child is born and suddenly cut off from their supply of opiates from their mother, they enter a state of withdrawal.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a rising epidemic. As the number of adults addicted to opiates has grown so have their babies being born. The Center for Disease Control reports that in the last fifteen years, the number of babies born addicted to opiate drugs has quadrupled.

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome are not dramatically different from the symptoms of withdrawal faced by individuals who are abusing opiate drugs. Sweating, vomiting, and seizures are common. While adults experience the “kick” of muscle spasms while withdrawing from heroin, babies experience uncontrollable shakes. Videos show small infants shaking so ferociously it appears as though they are vibrating. For adults enduring withdrawal they may experience difficulty eating. Likewise, babies are challenged in feeding. Additionally, they are excessively fussy. Screaming in high pitches and unyielding hysterics, babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome need specialized care to keep them calm. Being tightly wrapped in warm blankets and placed near gentle lights helps babies to calm down. Just as drug substitution therapy works for adults, many doctors use a liquid form of morphine administered to the mouth via dropper to calm babies down.

Long term studies on addicted and dependent babies are just beginning. How these infants will develop and cope later in life will soon be reported. Currently, there is little data on the correlation between neonatal abstinence syndrome and recurring addiction in adolescence or adulthood. Babies born addicted to opiate drugs might face developmental challenges, which could lead to a vulnerability for addiction.

Refuge Recovery welcomes women seeking help for their addictions and suffering in their lives. Our program utilizes mindful practices of Buddhist ethics and principles to fully embrace the transformational power of deep healing. If you or a loved one are concerned about opioid abuse call us today 323-207-0276.

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