Did you know more than 1,000 infants in Tennessee are born dependent on drugs each year? October is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) Awareness Month, so we wanted to share information about this important aspect of the opioid epidemic.
What is NAS, and how does it happen?
NAS occurs when a baby goes through withdrawal from an addictive drug he or she was exposed to in the womb. The most common cause is a woman taking opioids during pregnancy. This includes mothers who are receiving treatment for pain or addiction and those misusing prescription medications.
What types of medications cause withdrawal in babies?
- Opioids (painkillers such as codeine, morphine or oxycodone)
- Benzodiazepines (to help with anxiety or sleep)
- Barbiturates (sedatives)
- Illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin
- Methadone or buprenorphine, used in medication-assisted treatment (opioid treatment that uses behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance abuse)
How much does it cost to treat NAS?
The care of babies born with NAS costs six times more than the care of those born without. This is due to many factors, including longer hospital stays, higher monitoring costs, medications and health problems that continue after being discharged.
How can we prevent NAS?
There are multiple ways to prevent NAS from occurring. Here are some ways anyone can help:
- Raise awareness about the risks of NAS
- Identify pregnant women using drugs early, and connect them with treatment
- Reduce the stigma around NAS, so women feel comfortable seeking help
In addition to the ways listed above, everyone can help prevent opioid abuse from happening in their homes. One easy and effective way to keep your loved ones away from your prescription pills is to count your pills regularly, keep them locked in a safe place, and drop off any unused or expired pills you have at a take-back event on Oct. 28, 2017, or permanent drop box location. Find one near you.
Source: Better Tennessee Health Brief, published by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee