The Sad Reality of Babies Being Born Addicted to Opiates

raleigh drug rehabIn the past four years, our facility for Raleigh drug rehab has learned that the number of babies born addicted to drugs has doubled. According to a study in the Journal of Perinatology, every 25 minutes a baby is born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is a set of symptoms related to withdrawal from narcotics. That is an estimated 21,732 babies who were exposed to drugs while in utero.

The rates of babies born with NAS were higher in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky. A 48 percent increase in Kentucky makes it one of the hardest hit states. Back in 2000, it only occurred 28 times a year. The New England area, where there has been a major increase in opioid use in the last few years, has the next highest rate of babies born with NAS, with 13.7 births per 1,000. The west south central area of the U.S. saw the fewest number of births, with only 2.6 cases per 1,000.

Babies born with NAS have to stay in hospitals longer, averaging nearly 17 days over the two days a healthy newborn stays. The increase in time spent in the hospital means a much higher cost. An estimated 1.5 billion dollars has been spent taking care of these babies and their mothers. Over 80 percent is paid by federally funded programs such as Medicaid. These stats point at the reality of drug abuse among lower income communities.
The increase in infants born with NAS is related to the increase in drug use across the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 250 million prescriptions for opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet were prescribed. Some pregnant women have even been prescribed opioid pain relievers, which would increase the chance that their baby would be born with NAS.

Statistics have shown that opioid addiction has increased along with drug poisoning deaths relating to heroin. It has nearly quadrupled from 2000 to 2013. People often become addicted to drugs prescribed by their doctors, then when they can no longer obtain them legally, they turn to illegal drugs. Heroin is cheap and easy to get, but it is also highly addictive and dangerous because it can be cut with other substances. Most of the cases of NAS involve opiates such as heroin.

What is neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)?

raleigh drug rehabWhen a mother takes drugs, they pass through the blood stream to the fetus through the placenta. This causes the baby to become dependent on the drug in the same way as the mother. However, when the baby is born, the drug supply stops, so the infant begins to experience withdrawal symptoms. Nearly all drugs have some effect on an infant, but some drugs are more likely to trigger NAS than others.

Opiates almost always cause NAS. A drug like cocaine may cause some symptoms, but the main concern is that is it toxic to the baby. Alcohol use causes a whole other set of problems including birth defects and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

Not all mothers with babies born with NAS are using illegal drugs. A woman who is recovering from opiate addiction may have been prescribed methadone as part of her treatment plan. Women are informed that their baby may risk being born dependent on methadone, but sometimes the benefits of taking a medically controlled drug to help reduce the urge and cravings for heroin or other opiates is worth the risk to a pregnant woman.

If you know of a loved one who is using drugs or drinking while pregnant, encourage her to get help. Call Legacy Freedom to talk with a counselor, or have her call to see how she can begin a Raleigh drug rehab program that can help protect the health and safety of her unborn child.

A baby who is exposed to drugs before he or she is born is at risk of NAS as well as other problems such as poor growth, premature birth, low birth weight, birth defects and seizures.

What are the symptoms of NAS?

A baby born with NAS can experience the symptoms listed below during withdrawal. They can begin in as little as 24 hours after he or she is born and can last up to 10 days. The length and severity depends on when the baby was born in the pregnancy and the baby’s weight at birth.

  • Excessive crying with a high pitched cry
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Fever or unstable temperature
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Hyperactive reflexes or tight muscle tone
  • Sensitivity to sound and light

Babies who are born prematurely have a lower risk of withdrawal symptoms, and when they do suffer from they do not last as long.

A doctor can diagnose NAS after talking with the mother about drug use. It is important that she be truthful about her drug use and the last time she took a drug. This information can help determine the severity of NAS. It can also help doctors plan the treatment for the baby.

How is NAS treated?

Once a doctor has determined that an infant has NAS he or she can develop a treatment plan based on the baby’s age, overall health, and medical health. One simple solution is something many people do for babies in general – swaddling. Babies in withdrawal can’t get comfortable, so the warm and snug feeling of being wrapped up can help calm them.

Babies who have experienced dehydration, vomiting, diarrhea or difficulty feeding may need an IV to get the calories he or she is lacking.

If a baby has severe withdrawal, medication can be used to help ease the symptoms. The drug is usually from the same family as the drug the mother took while pregnant. The baby is weaned off the drug gradually to lessen the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

Affordable Raleigh Drug Rehab and Alcohol Treatment | Legacy Freedom

Legacy Freedom of Raleigh is the top choice for drug and alcohol addiction recovery. Our personalized approach to recovery is what makes us unique. There's no way to create a single plan that works for everyone, so we personalize our substance abuse treatment services to meet your needs. It's about real recovery from addiction, not just a 12-step, one-size-fits-all rehab program. Our treatment options include a variety of holistic and alternative programs that have worked for countless patients.  Call us today to learn more about how you can get started with quality Raleigh drug rehab and alcohol treatment.

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