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What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb. Babies of mothers who drink during pregnancy may have a similar condition.

Symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

The symptoms of NAS vary and may being within 1 – 3 days after birth, or they may take 5 – 10 days to appear. The symptoms may include the following:

  • Blotchy skin coloring (mottling)
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive crying or high-pitched crying
  • Excessive sucking
  • Fever
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Sleep problems
  • Slow weight gain
  • Stuffy nose, sneezing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling (tremors)
  • Vomiting

Should your baby have any of these symptoms, you should take the baby to a pediatrician who has several tests available to help diagnose withdrawal in a newborn including the neonatal abstinence syndrome scoring system, which assigns points based on each symptom and its severity, toxicology screen of first bowel movements (meconium), and urine test (urinalysis).

Causes of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

The cause of NAS is addiction. An addicted mother passes the drugs through the placenta to the baby which results with the baby becoming addicted. When born, the baby is still dependent on the drugs but will start experiencing withdrawal symptoms since they no longer have access to the drug.

While any addictive illicit or prescription drugs can cause NAS, some of the most commonly found addictions are to substances including the following:

  • Amphetamines
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines (diazepam, clonazepam)
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates/Narcotics (heroin, methadone, codeine)

The level to which the baby will experience withdrawal symptoms is determined by the type of drug, how much of the drug was consumed, the length of time she was abusing the drug, and whether the baby was born prematurely or full-term.

How Prevalent Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) the rate of illicit drug use among pregnant women age 18 to 25 is 7.4%, and among pregnant teens is as high as 16.2%.

  • A 2012 study from the University of Michigan and the University of Pittsburgh analyzed information on 7.4 million discharges from 4,121 hospitals in 44 states and identified findings including the following:
    • Between 2000 and 2009, the number of mothers using opiates increased from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1,000 hospital births per year.
    • The overall rate of newborns being diagnosed with NAS tripled over the decade. As of 2009, approximately one infant born per hour in the United States had signs of drug withdrawal.
    • Newborns with NAS were 30% more like to have respiratory complications.

Theses results show that newborns with NAS experience longer, medically complex, and costly care.

Get Help for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Making your unborn child an addict is not something any parent wants to do. If you are struggling with substance abuse, you need to get help before you get pregnant so that you can provide the safest environment for your unborn child. If you are struggling with substance abuse and you are pregnant, do not wait; you need to act now. Call our toll free number today to get started finding out about your options. We are available 24 hours a day and we can find out about your insurance coverage, and provide insights into programs and services. We want to help you and we want to help your baby.