Many women who abuse drugs and alcohol may eventually become pregnant. Some of these women are able to stop their substance use in order to live a healthy life for their baby. Other women are not able to kick their addiction, and their future child suffers the consequences.

With opiate use on the rise, more and more mothers are delivering babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a condition caused when infants have withdrawal symptoms from drugs including amphetamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, and opiates. Unfortunately, the number of babies born addicted to these drugs has risen in the past couple of years. This has wreaked havoc across the country and has complicated delivery of newborns in many different ways.

Many people know that there are risks associated with drug use. However, not many people realize that the effects of the drug are passed between the pregnant mother and her baby. According to the National Institutes of Health, these drugs can cause NAS.  The website also lists prescription drugs that can cause NAS when they are abused. Symptoms of NAS are varied and depend on the type of drug the mother consumed, how long she has been using the drug, how the drug was broken down in the mother’s body, and whether or not the baby was born full-term versus a premature birth. Symptoms of NAS in newborns include fever, excessive crying, seizures, slow weight gain, and tremors.

Even with such devastating adverse effects on newborns, the number of newborns born to opiate dependent mothers is on the rise. The National Institute on Drug Abuse published this article which shows the alarming rise in newborns going through opiate withdrawal. Below is a chart and illustration showing that rise.

baby graphic

Newborns afflicted with NAS need more care at birth and they need more time to overcome their withdrawal symptoms and be healthy enough to survive without neonatal care. Most people who take drugs expect some eventual consequences for their actions and may even believe they only place themselves in danger and no one else. In the case of pregnant mothers, this is just not true. People who are addicted to drugs need help, not scorn. Pregnant mothers need a safe place to go to rid themselves of their drug or alcohol addiction before it affects their baby.