Neonatologist's study trial supports alternative therapy for drug-addicted babies

February 2, 2015 by Elizabeth Adams, University of Kentucky

In the past decade, the number of Kentucky babies starting life with a drug dependency, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), has skyrocketed from 1.3 per 1,000 births to 19 per 1,000 births.

Just like adults coming off drugs, whose mothers used during pregnancy, will suffer from a number of , including tremors and irritability. The most common form of treatment for babies suffering from withdrawal is the opiate , which can hinder brain development during a critical growth period in a baby's life. The treatment period for infants requires hospitalization and can last weeks or even months, resulting in high hospitalization costs.

Dr. Henrietta Bada, a neonatologist at Kentucky Children's Hospital, has conducted preliminary research supporting an alternative drug to morphine that will help babies recover from NAS faster and with fewer neurological effects. Bada recently published findings from a pilot study determining whether clonidine, a non-opiate, non-addictive drug commonly used to treat hypertension, would result in improved neurobehavioral performance in babies when compared with morphine, an opiate. The research, which was published in the February 2015 issue of the journal Pediatrics, presents encouraging evidence that clonidine was as effective as morphine.

"It just does not make sense to expose these babies further to an opiate after they are born, especially when rapid brain growth occurs during the first months of life," Bada said. "It really would be important if research can be directed to an alternative treatment for these babies. A non-addictive drug would even be better, especially when some of these babies go home with families affected by substance use."

In the United States, nearly 1 percent of all pregnant women use opiates during pregnancy. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends opioids as the first-line therapy for . Clonidine is currently used in NAS babies as an adjunctive therapy to morphine.

Bada's research was the first known trial to examine clonidine as a single-drug therapy for babies with NAS. The study also suggests clonidine treatment could be completed after discharge, allowing babies to go home earlier and also reducing hospital stay costs. Bada stressed that more research will be required to validate these findings.

Explore further: Study finds increase in maternal opiate use, infants born with drug withdrawal syndrome

Related Stories

Study finds increase in maternal opiate use, infants born with drug withdrawal syndrome

April 30, 2012
Between 2000 and 2009 in the United States, the annual rate of maternal opiate use increased nearly 5-fold, while diagnosis of the drug withdrawal syndrome among newborns, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), increased almost ...

Prescription painkillers, widely used by childbearing age women, double birth defects risk

January 22, 2015
More than one-fourth of privately-insured and one-third of Medicaid-enrolled women of childbearing age filled prescriptions for opioid-based (narcotic) painkillers between 2008 and 2012, according to a new analysis published ...

Jump in drug-dependent babies worries US hospitals

May 13, 2013
He's less than two weeks old, but he has the telltale signs of a baby in pain: a sore on his chin where he's rubbed the skin raw, along with a scratch on his cheek. He suffers from so many tremors that nurses watch him around ...

Early warning of newborn withdrawal

July 2, 2013
In substance-exposed newborns, identification of the gene variations associated with risk of opioid addiction could aid the treatment of their withdrawal symptoms in the critical hours after birth, according to a University ...

Study examines long-term effects of methadone treatment in pregnancy

March 19, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Life gets off to a rough start for babies born to drug-dependent women, even when their mothers' addiction is clinically managed during pregnancy with methadone or other therapeutic replacement drugs. ...

In-utero methadone or subutex exposure could alter gene expression, cause severe neonatal abstinence syndrome

August 19, 2014
Some infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) secondary to in-utero opioid exposure have a more difficult time going through withdrawal than others, but the underlying reasons are not well understood. While genetic ...

Recommended for you

Does an 'echo chamber' of information impede flu vaccination for children?

November 19, 2018
Parents who decline to get their child vaccinated against the flu may be exposed to a limited range of information, a new national poll suggests.

Sucking your baby's pacifier may benefit their health

November 16, 2018
Many parents probably think nothing of sucking on their baby's pacifier to clean it after it falls to the ground. Turns out, doing so may benefit their child's health.

Newborn babies' brain responses to being touched on the face measured for the first time

November 16, 2018
A newborn baby's brain responds to being touched on the face, according to new research co-led by UCL.

No link between 'hypoallergenic' dogs and lower risk of childhood asthma

November 15, 2018
Growing up with dogs is linked to a lower risk of asthma, especially if the dogs are female, a new study from Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University in Sweden shows. However, the researchers found no relation between ...

Study shows changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children

November 13, 2018
An international team of researchers has found changes in histone methylation patterns in nutritionally stunted children. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes their ...

Your 6-month-old isn't sleeping through the night? Relax

November 12, 2018
(HealthDay)—If your 6-month-old still wakes up at 2 a.m., a new study suggests you don't lose any additional sleep worrying about it.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.