Opioids are physically, mentally, and psychologically damaging to the user. Problematically, as opioid use and addiction are steadily increasing, the use of opioids during pregnancy is also on the rise. Unfortunately, the use of these harmful drugs can result in a drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) or Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS).

What are NAS and NOWS?

NAS is a progression of painful symptoms that newborns experience while suffering from drug withdrawal after the biological mother used substances during their pregnancy. Symptoms of NAS include sleep problems, irritability, vomiting, or diarrhea. Using drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can cause a broad spectrum of issues for the baby. These problems include, but are not limited to, weak fetal growth, premature birth, seizures, or other congenital disabilities. NOWS is a specific form of NAS, which deals with the treatment and factors of withdrawal from opioids. Opioids can lead to withdrawal symptoms that may start immediately after birth and can last from five days to up to six months.

The Numbers

According to an analysis done by The National Institute on Drug Abuse, the number of babies born with NAS between the years 2004 and 2014 increased from 1.5 out of 1000 births to 6.5 out of 1000 births. Therefore, 32,000 babies are born with NAS or NOWS every year. Thus every 15 minutes, one baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. These disturbing facts lead to these affected babies having low birth-weights and complications with their respiratory systems, more so than their healthy counterparts.

The Cost

In 2014, the cost of treating NAS and NOWS totaled over $550 million, a dramatic increase from a decade prior, when the cost of treating NAS and NOWS totaled a little over $90 million. State Medicaid programs incurred 82% of that cost, therefore indicating that a vast majority of mothers using opioids during pregnancy come from lower-income communities.

Looking for Help?

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a disease, and it involves the mind and the body. However, in the case of pregnancy, using drugs or alcohol is also detrimental to the unborn baby and can impact the development and quality of life after birth. It is crucial to understand that addiction does not just affect the person abusing substances. At Fort Worth Recovery, we offer a nurturing space to support clients on their road to long-lasting recovery. We seek to inspire clients to face their challenges and foster hope for their future. If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, call us today at 844.332.1807 or visit us online.


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