It’s Not Only Illicit Drug Use Causing Neonatal Withdrawal Syndrome

We all know prescription opioid use has gone up. We might not be as aware that pregnant women are commonly prescribed opioids. How is that affecting their unborn children? A study by Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, highlighted the fact that not all neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), or withdrawal syndrome, is caused by nonprescription drug use. 65% of the NAS infants had mothers who used legal opioid pain relievers. Various factors, such as type of opioid, plus length of use, plus tobacco and/or depression/anxiety medication use add to the risk factors.

Opioid exposure led to preterm births, complicated births, lower birth weight, and respiratory distress. These complications must be taken into consideration when prescribing opioids to pregnant women. Interestingly, “Not all babies exposed to opioids have drug withdrawal after birth for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.” Also noteworthy is the fact that treatment for infants with NAS costs approximately $720 million a year.

To read more about the study, click here.

To read the abstract in Pediatrics, click here.


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