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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the Opioid Crisis

By: Shannon Persad November 29, 2019 no comments

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis that stems from the last two decades affects every generation, but one generation may be the forgotten—newborns. As government funding aims to combat the opioid epidemic, it is mostly for adults and certain groups who are deemed to be the most affected.

Recently it has been revealed that over 2 million children have been affected by the opioid crisis, resulting from parents and childhood trauma. However, the opioid crisis can affect people as soon as birth, as neonatal abstinence syndrome is a result of mothers abusing opioids during pregnancy.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a result of the sudden discontinuation of fetal exposure to substances that were used or abused by the mother during pregnancy.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also states “every 15 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdraw.”

Credit: NIDA

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the Future

A recent article by NPR mentions that newborns with NAS may be “forgotten” amid various settlements with pharmaceutical giants. While the settlements mention children in the argument against these manufacturers fueling the opioid crisis, there is concern the money granted may not be enough, if any.

Mothers who are suffering from opioid addiction may also receive medication-assisted treatment (MAT), which means taking drugs that are similar to opioids to fight addiction. However, these drugs can still contribute to NAS for a newborn.

One must wonder, is there a solution to this epidemic?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded the following in a study:

“The number of Medicaid-financed births that are impacted by NAS has risen substantially and totaled $462 million in hospital costs in 2014. Improving affordable health insurance coverage for low-income women before pregnancy would expand access to substance use disorder treatment and could reduce NAS-related morbidity and costs.”


It is unfortunate that newborns will have to suffer, but ensuring the sobriety of mothers during pregnancy may reduce NAS from occurring.

If you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, seek professional help now.

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