Opioid-addicted Babies: What Are the Long-term Effects?

November 23, 2022 General

The  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that a baby is born with opioid addiction every 19 minutes. When mothers use opioids while pregnant, the baby becomes addicted to the supply. Opioid-addicted babies suffer severe signs of withdrawal once born and must live with long-term developmental complications. 

This article will help you understand how misleading drug manufacturer claims may justify financial recovery for your child’s required treatment programs. 

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is a condition that occurs when babies experience withdrawal from substances they were exposed to in the womb. Opioid-addicted babies may suffer withdrawal symptoms while in the womb and after birth that can lead to severe injuries and long-term effects. 

Common opioids that cause NAS include oxycodone, codeine, hydrocodone, heroin, and morphine. Other non-opioid drugs may also cause NAS, like marijuana, antidepressants, Xanax, cocaine, methamphetamines, cigarettes, and other illicit substances. 

The Growing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Epidemic

One of the primary causes of NAS is prescription drug misuse by pregnant mothers carrying babies in the womb. Prescription drug misuse may happen intentionally or accidentally. For years, many drug manufacturers understated the potential risks of using opioids while pregnant. 

For example, you may have received a prescription opioid, like oxycodone, for pain relief after a minor procedure while pregnant. Due to misinformation from the manufacturer, your doctor or pharmacist may have told you it was safe to consume this drug, despite your pregnancy. Given the current information, we now know that even minor opioid usage can cause the unborn child to form dangerously addictive tendencies. 

In 2012 alone, nearly 380,000 babies suffered opioid exposure after 6% of pregnant women used illicit drugs during their pregnancies. These figures continue to rise, displaying a severe concern for moms and babies. 

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Initial Side Effects and Signifiers

All children display different responses to fetal opioid exposures. Understanding these initial symptoms can help you seek early treatment for your child. Most babies show NAS symptoms within a few days after birth as the withdrawal period begins, though some symptoms may not appear for as long as six months. 

The most common preliminary signifiers of NAS include the following:

  • Seizures
  • Bodily shakes
  • Jaundice (yellowing skin and eyes)
  • Tight muscles
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Excessive crying and fussiness
  • Prolonged weight gain
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fever
  • Sweating or rashes
  • Yawning and trouble sleeping
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose

Because a few of these symptoms, like a stuffy nose or crying, are typical in newborns, you must consider them in connection with other potential signifiers. If you think your baby may be suffering from opioid withdrawal, you must inform your doctor immediately. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome typically develops into much more severe long-term effects that you can mitigate with an early diagnosis and treatment plan. 

The Long-term Effects for Opioid-addicted Babies

When young children experience exposure to dangerous substances, it can affect how their brains develop. Opioid-addicted babies frequently suffer long-term developmental and auditory processing disorders, ADHD symptoms, and autism symptoms. 

Developmental Disorders

A  research study done in 2017 confirms the link between reduced mental development rates and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The study examined groups of children in third, fifth, and seventh grade and high school. Researchers compared children with NAS to children in a control group with similar ages, genders, and socioeconomic statuses. 

Children with NAS performed poorly across all age groups compared to the control groups. The study concluded that opioid addiction causes long-term developmental delays that impact academic performance. 

Auditory Processing Disorders

Auditory processing disorders make it challenging for people to understand speech. One research study found that prenatal exposure to buprenorphine can disrupt the body’s somatosensory networks in charge of producing sensory perceptions. 

Opioid-addicted babies, especially those exposed to buprenorphine, may suffer from reduced sensory nervous system development. Neurodevelopment is critical in young children. Aside from auditory processing disorders, developmental delays in the sensory nervous system can cause issues with cognition, language, speech, motor speeds, and more. 

ADHD Symptoms and Autism

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that inhibits concentration and impulsive behavior control. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is another developmental disorder that affects behaviors, interests, social interactions, attention spans, movements, and more. 

One research study found that children with prenatal exposure to illicit substances have increased risks of developing symptoms associated with ADHD and autism. While NAS may not directly cause ADHD or autism, it can result in various developmental delays that mimic the symptoms of each. Children who continuously use opioids as they age have even higher chances of developing these symptoms. 

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Treatment Options

Newborns who can receive an early diagnosis and treatment within 30 days of birth for their withdrawal may see substantial symptom improvements and reduced risks of long-term developmental issues. Doctors can diagnose NAS using a symptom scoring system, a meconium (first stool) test, or a urine test. If your healthcare provider detects NAS, they will immediately begin treatments to prevent further complications.

  • Treatments for NAS may include:
  • Withdrawal symptom medications to wean the infant off the substance
  • Hydrating fluids to reduce dehydration symptoms 
  • Calorically dense baby formula to encourage weight gain

If Your Child Suffers From an Opioid Addiction, You May Be Eligible for Compensation

If you consumed unsafe opioids while pregnant due to misleading information from big pharmaceutical companies, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit for the damages you and your child suffered. Victims have recently opened claims against Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Purdue Pharma for misleading customers and causing long-term health complications in opioid-addicted babies. 

If your child suffers long-term effects from NAS, you likely have years of medical bills and treatment costs ahead of you. A lawsuit can help secure the funds you need to recover financially. At Mass Tort Resource, we want to help you learn how to seek compensation for your case. 

Call Mass Tort Resource today at (844) 664-1267 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.