A baby is born addicted to opioids in the U.S. every 15 minutes. The rates of these births, where newborns are subject to a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, has soared over the past decade. A new study reveals some encouraging results regarding the effects of NAS that still linger two years after birth.

What Is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) refers to a set of issues experienced by babies who are withdrawing from narcotics exposure. While most common with opioids, this also occurs with drugs such as benzodiazepines and nicotine.

Nearly every drug consumed by a mother passes from the bloodstream through the placenta and into the fetus. An illicit substance that causes addiction in the mother will do the same for her unborn child. When a drug is no longer available, which happens at birth, withdrawal symptoms will begin for the baby.

NAS is associated with withdrawal symptoms in a baby that can begin as quickly as 24 hours after birth. A newborn can experience tremors, sweating, poor feeding, sleep problems, irritability and other issues that can last from several days to several months.

While the long-term effects of NAS are largely unknown, research does suggest that these children are more likely to perform poorly in school. One new study, however, offers some hope for these affected children.

Study Reveals Encouraging Results for NAS at 2-Year Mark

A new study just published in the Journal of Perinatology reveals some positive results for NAS-affected children at the 2-year mark. Led by Dr. Stephanie Merhar, a neonatal specialist at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, a team of researchers studied the records of 87 2-year olds that had been diagnosed with NAS at birth.

At the 2-year mark, children were given language, cognitive and motor skills tests. The study concluded that a majority of the children fell within the normal range and that most have the opportunity to do well. They do still face risks, however, and should continue to be monitored.

Among the problems the team identified were that about 8 percent of these children require treatment for strabismus, or lazy eye. Some of the children also scored below the mean on all three tests, but the team concluded that the damage from opioids was not as severe as that of other drugs such as alcohol. Even so, the team recommends that studies continue to determine the long-term effects of NAS.

Mom and baby playing on the floor.
A new NAS study reveals some encouraging results for children at the 2-year mark.

A Mother’s Commitment to Recovery Improves Odds

Of particular note, several national researchers have stressed the importance of the mother getting addiction treatment help. When it comes to positive outcomes for children, how their parents address any substance use disorders is a key factor in a child’s overcoming health and emotional issues. When the mother gets help, the children seem to do better.

If you are pregnant and struggling with a substance use disorder, there is help available. Your unborn children or newborn deserves to have a parent that is living a life in recovery. At The Recovery Village, we offer comprehensive addiction treatment services that can help you be the person you want and deserve to be for yourself and your loved ones.

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