Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Numbers Double

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive opiate drugs while in the mother’s womb. It is the result of the sudden discontinuation of fetal exposure to substances that were used or abused by the mother during pregnancy. Tolerance, dependence and withdrawal of these drugs may occur as a result of repeated administration of drugs or even after short-term high-dose use—for example, during mechanical ventilation in intensive care units. Neonatal abstinence syndrome may also occur when a pregnant woman takes drugs such as heroin, codeine, oxycodone (Oxycontin), methadone or buprenorphine.


Symptoms depend upon the drug the mother was taking, how long she took it for and how much she took. Common symptoms may include: Blotchy skin coloring (mottling), diarrhea, excessive crying or high-pitched crying, excessive sucking, fever, hyperactive reflexes, increased muscle tone, irritability, poor feeding, rapid breathing,  seizures,  sleep problems, slow weight gain, stuffy nose, sneezing and/or sweating. It may seem like there are a lot of symptoms, however as I said the symptoms are completely independent of what drug was taken by the mother.

The seemingly never-ending list of symptoms can be used to generate a scoring system based on the severity of each symptom. This is how neonatal abstinence syndrome diagnosed.


Treatment for NAS once again depends upon the drug involved, the infants overall health and abstinence score and whether the baby was born full term or premature. In mild cases, a waiting game of just giving the baby an extra bit of TLC can be effective. This may include gently rocking the baby to calm it, wrap it in blankets and keep the noise and lights down to help it sleep more gently. Babies with more  severe symptoms need medicines such as methadone and morphine to treat withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately these  babies may need to stay in the hospital for weeks or months after birth. The main motive behind this treatment is to prescribe the infant a drug similar to the one the mother used during pregnancy and slowly decrease the dose over time. This helps wean the baby off the drug and relieves some withdrawal symptoms.


I have gathered some shocking stats from:   – These stats show how much of a problem and how common NAS truly is.

  • The researchers found that during the 4-year period, the number of babies born with NAS almost doubled, from 3.4 births per 1,000 in 2009 to 5.8 births per 1,000 in 2012 – the equivalent to one baby born with NAS every 25 minutes. – Even though these stats are outdated, it is crazy to think that so many babies were born with this at some point, and how much of a problem it became.
  • The rise in abstinence syndrome mirrors the rise we have seen in opioid pain reliever use across the nation.This quote shows that maybe the over use of certain pain relievers may be to blame for the rise in NAS.

As you can see NAS is a rising problem. However we can prevent it by using drugs non-medically, using drugs not prescribed to you and using alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy.

Thank you for reading.