Potent prescription opioids like oxycodone can be lifesaving for people with pain. However, these drugs also cause serious problems. Addicts obsess about getting their next fix to avoid the unbearable withdrawal symptoms.
There have been pharmacy thefts, illegal street sales and desperate pleas by criminal’s families for prison time so their loved one can get addiction counselling. These stories aren’t going away. Oxycodone is a huge problem for addicts.
Moreover, newborn babies are being innocently caught up in opioids’ power too. Prescription drug abuse is not infrequent among moms-to-be. In fact, rates are increasing. Infants born to addicted mothers suffer from neonatal abstinence syndrome where baby is effectively in withdrawal after birth, craving the opioid taken by mom. These newborns are irritable, jittery, breathing quickly and feverish.
First, doctors try non-pharmacological interventions like keeping baby in a calm, dark, quiet room with soothing by mom. Sometimes, they also have to use morphine to manage baby’s pain and distress until it’s weaned off its craving, mom’s opioid. These infants are monitored closely in the neonatal intensive care unit.
This has crept up on physicians over the last decade, many of whom didn't have any medical training in this area. Now, they’re gaining expertise and even getting used to seeing pregnant women in this situation.
Methadone, another opioid, offers some optimism through harm reduction programs. Ideally, mom wouldn't be on any opioids, but at least methadone gives her a chance for a healthy pregnancy.
For addicts, oxycodone withdrawal can mean vomiting, unremitting tummy pain, severe agitation, insomnia and the unending quest for more oxycodone. Methadone can treat these symptoms, and expecting moms enrolled in harm reduction programs get it regularly from pharmacists who dispense doctors’ prescriptions.
The idea is that instead of spending every day looking for the medication, and wondering how she’ll get and pay for it, mom knows exactly when she’ll have her next dose. This means women can focus on staying well.
Fear of losing her family
Now, some methadone moms are having healthy pregnancies and healthy babies who go home with them and breastfeed. The challenge however, is getting more mothers to admit their problem and then ask for addiction help.
This isn’t an easy step though, since it’s attached to guilt and shame. Moms with other children may fear losing them, and worry about how they'll be viewed. It takes a lot of strength to see beyond peoples’ negative reactions and judgments, and make baby’s health the top priority.
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