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Addiction & Children, Addiction Treatment Options, Drug Addiction, Facts About Addiction, Substance Abuse  |  March 31, 2016

A child is born already addicted to drugs every 25 minutes in America.

Yes – you read that correctly. 

Every 25 minutes

.

How can a baby be addicted you ask?

Simple – a pregnant mom passes the drugs she is taking through the placenta, through the umbilical cord and right into a developing fetus’ blood stream.  And just as the mom becomes dependent on those drugs – so does the fetus.

When the umbilical cord is severed – the supply of drugs is cut abruptly, sending newborn addicts into violent withdrawal.   It’s called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and it’s a condition that causes the child almost inconceivable distress.  And the consequences of this early addiction are profound – and in some cases affect the long term mental and physical health of the child.

Can’t a woman just stop taking opioids or heroin once they learn they are pregnant?

Sadly – not without help.  Quitting abruptly can cause a miscarriage, and relapses can lead to dangerous and sometimes fatal overdoses.

As the number of addicted moms has risen in the U.S. – demand for care that can safely treat drug abuse in pregnancy has risen as well.

Currently the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend “a standard of care for pregnant women using prescription painkillers or heroin that calls for maintenance treatment with opioid addiction medications methadone or buprenorphine.  Abstaining from drugs without medication is not recommended because of the high risk to the mother of relapse and overdose.”

Aren’t these drugs dangerous for the fetus?

To a point – but physicians currently believe the danger associated with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is far outweighed by the risk to the mother of a relapse and fatal overdose.

Is it possible that new addiction treatment models like the at-home treatment program developed by Aware Recovery Care in Connecticut might allow moms to abstain completely – protecting babies from any of the harmful effects of methadone or buprenorphine?

Perhaps.

Only careful research into that question will produce reliable answers.

Physicians can also play a part by strenuously avoiding the prescribing of opioid drugs to women of child bearing age.  These drugs are, as is well known, the most dangerously addictive class of drugs on earth.

One thing is certain.  Women of child bearing age struggling with addictions to drugs and or alcohol need to seek effective treatment as soon as possible to avoid the dangerous challenges they’ll face if they become pregnant while addicted.  They need to do it for their sake – and for the sake of their unborn children.

Photo credit: valentinapowers via Foter.com / CC BY