Roxy Todd Published

Best Practices for Treating Opioid-Exposed Newborns

A nursery where drug-affected babies are treated at Lily’s Place in Huntington, W.Va.

A new federal study, called “Federal Action Needed to Address Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome,”recommends educating both health care providers and pregnant women on screening and prenatal care to address drug addiction and withdrawal in newborns.

West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito say it’s the first federal study on neonatal abstinence syndrome to examine the best practices and approaches to treating infants exposed to opioids during pregnancy. 

The study recommends using nonpharmacologic treatment for infants, or a type of care that does not use medications, for babies who suffer from opioid withdrawal. One suggestion is to allow mothers to spend as much time as possible with their newborn, preferably in a room without bright lights, to calm them.

According to the study, the most frequently cited challenges included the maternal use of multiple drugs—or polysubstance use—as it can exacerbate NAS symptoms.The Government Accountability Office study also recommends addressing the stigma faced by pregnant women who use opioids that keeps them from getting treatment.

Legislation backed by the lawmakers from West Virginia required the study.