Stories referencing the ever-present and nationwide opioid addiction crisis occur almost daily. Whether articles are referencing heroin, prescription painkillers, or other illicit substances laced with opioid drugs, this rampant problem is far-reaching and raising a great deal of awareness for people all over the country. However, amidst the headlines about drug busts, overdoses, and warnings regarding the signs of opioid addiction, there remains an especially vulnerable population that is being affected by this form of chemical dependency, is unwittingly forced to live with the long-term consequences of opioid abuse, and is not getting as much media attention as other people struggling with this issue.
Battling Addiction Is Never a Choice for a Baby
Newborn babies, the only people who are not even given a choice to abuse drugs or not, are being born all across the United States addicted to and chemically dependent on opioids. Not to say that opioid-addicted women are maliciously intending to cause harm to their unborn babies, but this sort of concern is growing as an increase in women grappling with opioid dependence is directly related to the mounting number of infants born addicted to drugs. While there has yet to be conclusive research that shows the exact long-term effects tied to being born addicted to opioids, researchers, pediatricians, other doctors, and addiction experts do know what lay ahead for these babies in the short-term.
Similar to what happens when an adult is either not able to abuse an opioid or is trying to refrain from further heroin or prescription painkiller abuse, babies who come into this world addicted to these substances will experience drug withdrawal. Known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, the period of withdrawal experienced by newborns is an exceptionally challenging process that is psychologically and physically taxing.
For some new babies, symptoms of withdrawal emerge shortly after birth, whereas others experience these symptoms sometimes days after being born. Uncontrollable, incessant crying, shaking and tremors, vomiting, diarrhea, sometimes dangerously high fever, sleep issues, dehydration, and significant loss of appetite are but some of the uncomfortable and life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal that a baby can endure as opioids leave his or her body. Given this crucial time in life when eating, sleeping, and being able to be soothed are so important, medical intervention is frequently required in order to prevent a grave outcome.
Fortunately, medical professionals and neonatal specialists are able to treat these symptoms and give opioid-addicted babies a fighting chance at life. Some infants are given methadone, a medication that interacts with the same portions of the brain that are impacted by opioid abuse, so that they can be weaned from heroin and/or prescription painkillers in a safe manner. Others may be given morphine to also quell the physical discomfort they are experiencing. Additionally, some hospitals have volunteers who come and cradle and rock babies while they receive this form of care so that their recovery time is shorter. Once done with this sort of treatment, babies born addicted to these harmful drugs can return home with their mothers, if they are sober and capable of caring for their infants. If the mothers are incapable of providing proper care, the babies will either reside with a designated loved one or become custody of the state they are in.
What is important to know, however, is that the effects of being born addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers can be completely avoided all together.
Seeking Chemical Dependency Treatment Before, During, and After Becoming Pregnant Helps All Involved
For many women, becoming pregnant is a wonderful time that is full of hope and anticipation for the little bundle that will soon arrive. For others, specifically those who are battling opioid addictions, this particular time in life can be just as joyous, but it may also be a conflicting life transition. The intent to do right by one’s baby may be there, and the desire to receive prenatal services and prepare for the baby can be felt, but the overwhelming urge to get high frequently trumps these good intentions. All too often, much like what transpired before realizing that a baby is coming, the abuse of heroin and other opioids is the top priority. Finding, buying, and using these drugs takes precedence over all else, ultimately leaving an unborn baby subjected to having heroin or prescription painkillers in his or her system as he or she develops. However, women who are grappling with this form of chemical dependency, whether they are currently pregnant or are at risk of becoming pregnant, can make the brave and life-saving choice to improve their lives and the lives of their future children.
It does not matter when a woman seeks professional drug and alcohol addiction treatment to overcome an opioid addiction, what matters is that she does. While especially important to do before conceiving a child, even pregnant women can break free from the grips of substance abuse once and for all. Via effective care that can alleviate withdrawal during the first steps of recovery and through therapeutic supports that can provide the skills needed to remain drug-free, women without children, soon-to-be mothers, and mothers with kids can access care and make a positive transformation that can drastically change their lives and the lives of their offspring for the better.
The Rose of Newport Beach, an addiction treatment center for women located in California, offers the life-saving and life-changing care that women of all ages need to win the war against addiction. Through the provision of detox, residential, and step-down levels of care that can set the stage for a long-lasting sober existence, women, no matter how severe their addictions may be, can acquire the skills and confidence they need to make healthier choices for themselves and for their families. By selecting this center as the place to become well again, women with, without, or preparing for children can live the opioid-free lives they both desire and deserve.