Cases of Newborn Methadone Withdrawal Is Increasing

Cases of Newborn Methadone Withdrawal Is Increasing

The number of newborn babies addicted to drugs is soaring in America. And in many states, more babies are suffering from newborn methadone withdrawal because it’s so widely used to treat opiate addictions. These stats are rising right along with the increase in prescription and street drug addiction. In Massachusetts, for example, the governor has declared a state of health emergency because of opiate addiction. And cases of drug-addicted newborns has increased as much as 400 percent in just the last few years (all drugs, not just methadone).

An article in the Boston Globe reports that 1,300 babies – roughly three or four a day – were born in 2012 already addicted to drugs. There’s no statewide statistical database to compare previous years. But a quick review of a few hospitals tells the story. At South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, drug-dependent babies rose from 33 in 2008 to 115 in 2013 – that’s a 400 percent rise. UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester doubled in the same period, from 30 in 2008 to 60 last year. Doctors from Boston and Lowell also told the Globe that the number of drug exposed-babies has soared. The utter hell of newborn drug withdrawal is called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Any of the whole range of addictive drugs can cause it:

  • Amphetamines (speed)
  • Barbiturates (sedatives)
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers)
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates/Narcotics (heroin, methadone, hydrocodone, oxycodone etc.)
  • Alcohol (causes terrible NAS side effects called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome)
The severity of NAS symptoms depends on:
  • The drugs the mother used during her pregnancy
  • How much and how often she took the drugs
  • How her body metabolized (broke down) the drugs
  • Whether the baby was full-term or premature
If you think it’s not a big deal for a woman to take drugs during pregnancy, take a look at these symptoms, which can begin within a day or two after birth:
  • 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

Sometimes, to avoid seizures or death, babies are given the drug the mother used and then weaned off it over days or weeks. At best this only relieves some of the withdrawal symptoms.

Who would put a newborn through methadone withdrawal?

You might ask, what kind of person would put their newborn through the hell of withdrawal? The answer is probably not an evil person, but rather a careless person and someone who didn’t seriously consider how terrible the effects would be on their baby. The solution to the problem goes deeper than “avoid pregnancy while addicted or abusing drugs.” The solution is for women to confront the real situation – their own addiction – and talk to a counselor about getting through their methadone detox right now. Not tomorrow or next month, but right now before they make a mistake and get pregnant. We understand how some women on methadone programs have already tried and failed to “step down” their dosages. Many others on higher doses have been turned away by detox centers because the center doesn’t know how to deal with it. We have some good news. Novus Medical Detox Center accepts methadone patients at any dosage level, even high-dose habits of 150mg or more. Our methadone patients succeed, because we are methadone withdrawal experts. (Information on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome was from Medline Plus)

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