Combating opioid addiction during pregnancy

Combating opioid addiction during pregnancy

Motherhood is one of the most challenging phases in a woman’s life, involving a sea of new emotions that are unique to new mothers. It is the stage when a woman puts someone else’s happiness and well-being before her own. Though pregnancy is an ecstatic journey, it can prove to be a nightmare for a woman who is suffering from opioid addiction. When a pregnant woman abuses drugs, including opioids, she not only puts her own life at risk but also places the life of her unborn child in danger. Therefore, healthcare experts must consider individualized care to overcome adverse socio-clinical effects of opioid addiction on pregnant women and their fetus.

With nearly 1.9 million of Americans having a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, narcotic drugs have become a leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., said a recent report by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). Consequently, many opioid-addicted pregnant women encounter a string of difficulties during pregnancy.

The socio-clinical problems experienced by opioid-addicted pregnant women are particularly related to overcoming stigma attached to the addiction, determining the amount of opioids consumed and selecting the right treatment. Studies have shown that four out of every five unborn babies exposed to opioids, such as heroin, will experience withdrawal symptoms.

Exposure to opioids hampers growth of fetus

The level of risk associated with opioid addiction can be determined based on the quantity and the period for which the drug has been consumed. In such cases, doctors determine the treatment after thoroughly considering the individual circumstances of each individual.

Though repercussions of opioids cannot be accurately enumerated, any decrease or increase in the amount consumed by the pregnant woman without appropriate medical consultation can result in withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms popularly believed to occur due to adaption to the absence of addictive substances, impact both the growth of the fetus and the health of the pregnant woman.

Unborn babies exposed to opioids not only run the risk of developing breathing troubles and heart problems but are also likely to suffer from various cognitive problems later in life. Many women also suffer from miscarriage, stillbirth and premature delivery due to an exposure to opioid drugs.

No evidence-based treatment for opioid-addicted pregnant women

Among the healthcare professionals in the U.S., the decision to prescribe the regulated narcotic drug methadone to a pregnant woman remains the biggest challenge. Though considered relatively safe when properly used, it is associated with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Therefore, a pregnant woman addicted to opioids is often left with no definitive cure for her condition.

Despite the similar outcomes, buprenorphine has been popularly considered better than methadone. However, since buprenorphine is a newer medication, doctors are not fully aware of  the effects of the drug on pregnant women and their babies, as compared to methadone.

Road to recovery

Pregnant women suffering from opioid addiction need a support structure that comprehends their unique situation. They especially need constant motivation from their family members and friends to help them walk the path of recovery.

Thus, it is important to keep a check on the sale, purchase and use of prescribed drugs. Not only should doctors be careful when prescribing drugs to pregnant women, they should also counsel them about the hazards of self-medication.

If you or your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs and is seeking treatment, you may contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline of California for information about various drug addiction treatment centers in California. You may also call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-738-2770 or chat online to learn about the best drug rehab centers in California.