One of the realities confronting today’s world is the surge in the number of opioid-addicted babies. With heartbreaking reports emerging from all over the world, the menace of opioid crisis has taken another dangerous form. The past two decades have seen an incredible escalation in opioid epidemic in the United States that has led to complexities in the health outcomes of individuals consuming opioids, either prescribed to them or abused by them. The rising use of prescription opioids in the last two decades has caused not only health complications but also an increase in the number of overdoses that have claimed more lives than motor vehicle crashes.
Unfortunately, opioid-addicted babies have comparatively lesser options of treatment and recovery. At such a tender and vulnerable age, it is also extremely difficult to determine the suffering and other warning signs of opioid addiction. One of the primary reasons behind the increased rate of opioid addiction among all age groups is the trend of overprescribing opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of prescription of opioids increased four times between 1999 and 2015.
Approximately 22,000 babies were born drug dependent in 2012. In fact, the number has been consistently increasing. One can comprehend the menace of opioid addiction among babies by the fact that many of them suffering from such a problem had to be turned away by medical facilities due to the increased burden on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Mixing opioids and psychotropic drugs increases risk of NAS
According to a recent study by a team of researchers based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the prescription of psychotropic medications (used for treating mental health conditions like anxiety and depression) along with opioids for treating pain in pregnant women increases the risk of drug withdrawal (neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS) in the newborns.
NAS is a common complication among newborns that develops due to the exposure to opioids in the womb (in utero). However, it is also frequently being due to the prescription of other psychotropic medications to pregnant mothers. This syndrome is characterized by a combination of symptoms in the newborns, such as irritability, hypertonia, seizures, feeding difficulties, poor thermoregulation, breathing problems and other complicated outcomes that result in expensive hospital admissions and devastative health outcomes. With the rates of NAS increasing fivefold over the past decade in the U.S., one affected infant is born every 25 minutes.
The researchers led by Krista Huybrechts sifted through the medical records of 201,275 pregnant women with insurance who were prescribed opioids within 45 days of their delivery and were enrolled in the Medicaid (a government-sponsored medical insurance program). As per the researchers, the absolute risk of NAS was substantially higher among the newborns of women exposed to both psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants, atypical antipsychotics benzodiazepines, gabapentin, etc., and opioids than those exposed only to opioids.
As such, the absolute risk of NAS after opioid exposure during pregnancy was only 1 percent in infants. However, the risk increased multiple times due to the concomitant exposure to psychotropic drugs and opioids. Compared to other psychotropic medications, the risk increased more in the case of gabapentin. The absolute risk of NAS in newborns was as high as 11.4 percent when exposed to both opioids and gabapentin. The exposer to multiple psychotropic drugs and opioids also increased the intensity of symptoms.
Exercise caution while treating pregnant women
The strategy for treating pregnant women should be comprehensive and evidence-based to ensure the well-being of the babies throughout the challenging phase of pregnancy and delivery. Moreover, clinicians should be cautious while prescribing opioids and psychotropic medications to patients, especially the segment of the population vulnerable to the complications arising due to such drugs.
If you or a loved one is battling prescription drug addiction, it is imperative to seek professional help. The Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline assists in accessing one of the prescription drug abuse treatment centers that specialize in delivering evidence-based intervention plans. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 or chat online with our medical representatives to know more about the best prescription drug abuse treatment clinic.