On Friday, July 22, 2016 President Barack Obama took progressive action to address what he referred to as America’s “opioid epidemic.” Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act into law in an effort to combat the abuse and dependence of heroin and other opioid drugs, as well as the rise in overdoses and overdose-related deaths, which has become an ever-growing problem occurring all across the country. There are many constructive sections listed within this influential law, including the improvement of treatment programs, easier access to treatment, increased funding for treatment and research, thorough and enhanced training of medical staff and first responders, greater availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug, and further measures to help opiate addicted pregnant or postpartum women and their babies. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is expected to save thousands of lives each year, significantly decrease the number of relapses due to improvements made on comprehensive treatment programs, and better ensure the safety of addicts and babies born to opiate addicted mothers. Opioid addiction has been and ongoing problem in the country, and government official, members of the community, and families who have lost a love one to the disease of addiction have been fighting for several years for drastic measures to be taken to put an end to this crisis, and as of last week, their voice was finally heard.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
One of the many beneficial sectors of this law addresses opiate addicted pregnant women and newborns of opiate addicted mothers. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act enforces stricter laws for medical healthcare professionals who specialize in labor and delivery to abide by when dealing with babies who are born to opiate addicted mothers. When opiate addicted women use throughout their pregnancy, the baby will develop an addiction to opiates while in the womb, and therefore the newborn will experience symptoms of withdrawal following birth. When a newborn experiences drug withdrawal, this is referred to as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Studies show that roughly every 19 minutes, a baby is born in America with NAS. Symptoms of NAS typically include shaking, jerking movements, issues with feeding, excessive crying, fever, skin discoloration, seizures, vomiting, sweating, diarrhea, difficulty sleeping, breathing problems, and low weight. In attempt to ease these painful and discomforting symptoms for the baby, doctors can administer morphine. Babies born to opiate addicted mothers can also suffer physical and mental damage and deformities, which in some cases can be life-threatening. Opiate addicted babies typically spend several weeks in the hospital until the withdrawal symptoms cease and the baby is stabilized and healthy enough to be released. It is also not uncommon for these babies to need close monitoring for several years following their birth. However, the safety of babies who have NAS is not always assured once they are healthy and strong enough to be released from the hospital’s care. According to Reuters, an international news agency, “Reuters found more than 110 babies since 2010 died under preventable circumstances after being sent home to families ill-equipped to care for them. Experts said far more children have likely died but gone uncounted.” It is anticipated that the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act will have a positive impact towards reducing the likelihood of these accidental deaths from happening.
Improving Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women.
Prior to Obama signing this Act into law, healthcare professionals were instructed to inform child protective services in the event of a baby being born to an opiate addicted mother, but often failed to do so because of the lack of protection the child may be given and little care the mother would receive. The law now requires healthcare officials to contact child protective services and ensures that both the mother and child will be provided with comprehensive treatment, as well as additional care and support for a safe, healthy future. Section 501, paragraph 4 of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act states, “Providing therapeutic, comprehensive child care for children during the periods in which the woman is engaged in therapy or in other necessary health and rehabilitative activities.” The bill goes on to read, “family reunification with children in kinship or foster care arrangements, where safe and appropriate.” Healthcare professionals are incredibly optimistic about the outcome of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, and believe that more babies will be saved and given the necessary care they need, and more mothers will be given the opportunity to regain their sobriety and move forward in life, raising a healthy child and being an attentive mother.
If you are a woman who is pregnant and also living with an opiate addiction, it is crucial that you inform your doctor immediately. If you fail to advise your doctor of your condition prior to delivery, it is important that you do so at the time of birth. Babies who are born addicted to opiates may not show any major signs of withdrawal until 3 to 5 days after birth, which in this case, the baby will have been released before the dangerous withdrawal symptoms come about. By informing your doctor of the opiate addiction, your baby will be give the help he or she needs in a safe environment and you will be given access to several treatment options.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.