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Prescription Drug Abuse and Pregnancy

According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, there has been a sharp increase in prescription drug abuse by women who are pregnant. Women addicted to opiate drugs, pain killers, are increasingly delivering infants experiencing withdrawal symptoms from their mother’s prescription drug abuse problem. Ultimately this also increases the cost of treating these newborns.

Back in the mid 1980’s there was an increasing concern as to whether or not babies who were born to cocaine-addicted mother would have problems with physical and psychological development. To this day it still seems unclear if babies exposed to opiates or other drugs while in the womb will experience any long-term consequences. It was however, more likely the child would have developmental issues if it had to deal with economic hardship, instability in family, or poor education.

Approximately 60-80% of infants who are exposed to opiates while in their mother’s womb requires and extended hospitalization. Typically these extended stays average about sixteen days, but there still remains uncertainty to what the best path of detoxification for these newborns is. According to the study, most clinicians use oral opiate medications like methadone and morphine, and in more serious cases a non-opiate drug with y-amniobutric acid like phenobarbital, or benzodiazepine. However, there does need to be a more standard, possibly less intrusive treatment protocol, and more research is needed to make maternal prescription drug abuse maintenance strategies better. Unfortunately, according to JAMA, efforts are frustrated due to lack of controlled clinical trials.

Another interesting bit to note in the study is that since the year 2000, there has not been a decrease in the time an infant suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, which one can conclude that doctors have not learned how to create a treatment protocol that is efficient. In a article back in April 2012, a Dr. Mark Hudak, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville and an author of new guidelines on neonatal abstinence syndrome issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics this year, there are recommendations that should be followed; soothe and cuddle babies and keep them in dark room, but if that is unsuccessful then the baby should be given methadone, morphine or another drug related to what the baby was exposed to while in the mother’s womb. This second process requires great care and monitoring, and when the time is right, the babies need to be weaned.

Ultimately, the best way to deal with this problem is to deal with drug addictions in women before they get pregnant.

Journal of the American Medical Association
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