Never before have there been so many U.S. citizens addicted to drugs than there are today. In fact, the problem has gotten so out of hand that overdose has actually become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.
And while this problem has undoubtedly reached epidemic proportions and has laid ruin to the lives of its innumerable victims, there’s one aspect of the crisis that most people don’t know about: babies born addicted to drugs.
The past two decades has seen an alarming surge in newborns that are born physically addicted to illicit substances due to exposure in the womb, putting them in danger of countless immediate health problems along with a number of long-term conditions as well.
What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a set of symptoms that are typically found in children who become physically addicted to a drug before being born, usually through its mother’s drug habits.
During pregnancy, the mother’s body is intricately linked with that of her child’s. As such, the foods, drinks, and substances she consumes not only affect her body, but also her unborn baby’s as well. As a result, exposure to drugs while in the womb causes the child to develop an actual addiction to the substance.
While this problem certainly applies to nicotine and alcohol use during pregnancy (which can cause numerous physical and mental developmental problems), there has been a spike in opioid-addicted newborns that correlates with the current opioid epidemic.
In fact, the number of opioid-addicted newborns has quadrupled since 1999, a statistic that almost exactly mirrors the increase in opioid addictions in general.
Symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
The severity of NAS depends almost entirely upon the drug-using habits of the mother during pregnancy.
What kind of drug did she use while she was carrying the child? How long was she using? How much did she take at a time?
The answers to each of these questions will determine when the symptoms of NAS begin to develop as well as how harsh each will be. A few other factors including genetics and birth timing (premature or full-term) also play a role here.
Some of the symptoms according to MedlinePlus from the U.S. National Library of Medicine include:
- Blotchy skin coloring
- Excessive crying
- Increased muscle tone
- Poor feeding
- Slow weight gain
- Stuffy nose
- Sleep problems
- Rapid breathing
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Excessive sucking
Outlook for Babies Born Addicted to Drugs
Complications from NAS may include premature birth, small head circumference, birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and developmental and behavioral problems.
These children are suffering a wide array of physical discomforts so they are often fussy, irritable, and sometimes inconsolable. Doctors may choose to treat the child with medications to reduce the severity of withdrawals as a result.
Some hospitals have also developed volunteer programs for cuddling NAS afflicted children since doing so can help ease some of these symptoms.
Babies Born Addicted to Drugs: An Unseen Epidemic
Preventing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is just one of the many reasons to kick your opioid habit today. Whether it’s heroin, prescription painkillers, or even methadone, using or abusing any of these drugs while pregnant can have some very serious consequences for your unborn child, some of which may actually be permanent.
That’s why it’s crucial that you enroll in a comprehensive addiction recovery plan to ensure you get clean – and stay clean. It’s one of the best things you can do for both yourself and your future children.
Dr. Ronaye Calvert-Conley is the CEO and Founder of Revive Detox, a Joint Commission Accredited and Legit Script Certified Addiction Treatment Center in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University in Los Angeles in 2007 and has extensive experience working in the addiction and recovery field and the LGBT community. To learn more about Dr. Calvert-Conley click here.
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