Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Signs and Symptoms
Misusing drugs and alcohol is dangerous for a person’s mental and physical well-being. However, when a pregnant woman misuses substances, the life of the child can be in danger. Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) consists of the physical and emotional difficulties that occur when a baby is exposed to harmful substances, like drugs or alcohol, that were ingested by the mother during the pregnancy. NAS can result in impaired vision, coordination disabilities, and behavioral issues within the infant. In addition, infants born with NAS have a higher risk of becoming addicted to substances in the future compared to children born without substances in their system.
Along with prescription opioids, there are a variety of drugs that can cause a baby to be born with NAS. These drugs include:
- Amphetamines: Adderall, Ritalin, meth, ecstasy
- Benzodiazepines: Valium, Xanax, Ativan
- Opioids: heroin, opium, Vicodin, Percocet, methadone, Suboxone
If a woman discovers that she is pregnant while addicted to a substance, it is important that she immediately seeks a medical professional to receive assistance before the child is born. Continued drug use, addiction or not, could be detrimental to the health of the baby.
Even though babies born with NAS can be carried their full term, they are most likely to be born with a lower birth weight than a healthy baby. When the affected child is born they are also likely to have breathing and feeding issues along with seizures that can randomly occur. The defects that the drug consumption causes will make a newborn need around-the-clock supervision, requiring them stay in the hospital for longer periods of time.
- Muscle tightening
- High-pitched cry
- Inability to feed at a normal rate
- Fast breathing
- Excessive sweating
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble breathing
The kind of symptoms a child experiences depends on the severity of the addiction the mother had to a substance. The severity of symptoms will also be determined by which substance the mother was consuming, how much of it she used, and how long it was used for. Another sign that a child can be born with NAS is if the child is born prematurely. Since each person reacts to substances differently, the baby can react differently as well.
In order for a healthy baby to be born, the mother must be in good health as well. For those who are interested in conceiving a child but struggle to manage their addiction, it is recommended they seek treatment at a rehab facility. Getting help through a rehab center is beneficial because of the amount of resources that are available, including individual therapy, group counseling and recreational therapeutic activities. Ridding the body of any toxins that may inhibit a child’s development can also reduce the risks of NAS at birth.
CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research). “Cocaine.” CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research), 29 Oct. 2013, www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/cocaine.asp. Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.
Doward, Jamie. “Warning of Extra Heart Dangers from Mixing Cocaine and Alcohol.” The Guardian, 7 Nov. 2009, www.theguardian.com/society/2009/nov/08/cocaine-alcohol-mixture-health-risks. Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.
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