Along with the alarming trend of opioid use in this region comes an disease that many don’t know about and a treatment that can take weeks.
According to Sault Area Hospital statistics, they treated 20 babies for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2020. It was the highest amount in the past 10 years, those years ranged from 6-16 with no visible trend.
(NAS) effects babies born to mothers who have a substance abuse problem. According to Dr. Johnathon DellaVedova, the chief of the neonatal/PICU at Sault Area Hospital, it happens when the drugs, which came through the ambilocal cord, no longer are provided to the baby.
“It can be due to illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl, but it could also be legal prescription opioids like methadone,” said DellaVedova. “If you can picture what an adult might go through when they’re experiencing withdrawal, a newborn actually has very similar experience, except a newborn can’t communicate with us using words.”
Some of the more severe symptoms can include seizures and fevers as well as rapid breathing. He says the treatment for the syndrome is usually giving small, decreasing doses of morphine until the infant has recovered. Then they are watched carefully for years to come.
“On average, once the baby is starting to be treated, it’s about two to three weeks,” said DellaVedova. “Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome are known to be at risk for longer term developmental and behavioral problems. So we automatically refer them for extra developmental surveillance and support.”
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