Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) occurs when a mother uses opioid narcotics during the course of her pregnancy. After birth, some babies will experience withdrawal symptoms which require medical attention. NAS is a byproduct of elevated opioid addiction rates, one that introduces newborns to substance dependency from the start of life. In the wake of the opioid epidemic in the United States, neonatal intensive care units have been overburdened on a number of different levels.
Naturally, NAS requires more than just treatment; mothers who struggle with opioid addiction need assistance as well, in order to ensure the safety of the children upon going home. Reuters looked into the matter; the investigation found that 110 babies whose mothers used opioid narcotics during their pregnancy – died from preventable causes at home. The investigation, while troubling, led to action among lawmakers on the national level. The legislation will provide assistance to opioid dependent mothers, and require both federal and state governments to monitor, better than they have in the past, the health and safety of babies born drug-dependent.
Protecting Our Drug Dependent Infants
Last week, a bill went to the Senate floor which prompted the U.S. Health and Human Services Department to pledge reforms, Reuters reports. This week, a similar bill was introduced in the House that would require states to report the number of babies determined to have been born drug-dependent. The states would also have to report the number of infants who have had safe care plans developed.
“We see the damage of substance abuse across all segments of our society, but perhaps the most tragic cases involve newborns who enter the world defenseless against the addictions they were born with,” said Representative Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania in a statement. “It is a sad reality in this country that a baby is born addicted to opioids every 19 minutes. We must do everything we can to safeguard the most vulnerable among us and ensure they will be well protected and cared for.”
A Failure to Report
In 2003, a law was passed that required hospitals throughout the country to alert state social services when a baby was born dependent on drugs, according to the article. The Reuters report found that only 9 states actually comply with the 2003 law, putting newborn babies at severe risk.
Going forward and in a perfect world, the expectant mother would be able to begin her addiction recovery well before the baby is born. While adult intervention is not appropriate in every situation, it may be the only way to prevent fallout from severe addiction. In some cases, intervention may even be a life-saving solution for loved ones that deny the presence of addiction or the need for rehabilitation. If you have questions about intervention and recovery, please contact us.