By CATHY BROWNFIELD
Family Recovery Center
Sometimes we learn through observation of the experiences of others. Sometimes we learn things the hard way, through our mistakes. Sometimes we think before we act. Sometimes we do not.
As our state tries to get control of the prescription drug problem so prevalent here, too many Ohioans will get a dose of awareness into some problems that we have not witnessed first hand. Family Recovery Center has provided information about FAS, a completely preventable problem, numerous times over the years. Today, we want to make you aware of another preventable problem, NAS.
Many people do not know the heartbreak of losing a baby, but we can imagine the pain and sorrow of the parents and family. Nor do most know what it's like to carry and give birth to an infant already addicted to drugs, or the regret and sorrow of the mother.
We sometimes imagine that the mother must be a terrible person to put her unborn child at risk, to abuse substances that she must know will harm the infant. Nor are we privy to her emotions as her child undergoes withdrawal. If a person has never suffered addiction, it is difficult to understand how it works.
FAS, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, is a condition of babies born alcoholic. Their mothers abused alcohol during pregnancy and the residual effects are some degree of retardation that will require care for the rest of the child's life. It is completely preventable. Abstinence from consuming alcohol during pregnancy is all it takes.
NAS, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, is a set of problems suffered by a fetus or newborn whose mother abused addictive illegal or prescription drugs during pregnancy, such as amphetamines, barbiturates, cocaine, marijuana, opiates or narcotics like heroin, methadone, and codeine and benzodiazepines like diazepam and clonazepam.
The symptoms depend on what the mother used, how her body breaks down the drug, how much she has taken, how long she has been using the drug and whether the baby was full term or premature, advises the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Symptoms appear one to three days up to five to 10 days after birth, according to the NIH, and include blotchy skin coloring, diarrhea, excessive or high-pitched crying, excessive sucking, fever, hyperactive reflexes, increased muscle tone, irritability, poor feeding, rapid breathing, seizures, sleep problems, slow weight gain, stuffy nose, sneezing, sweating, tremors and vomiting.
Babies with NAS are difficult to calm. Severely affected infants need medication to treat the withdrawal symptoms, medicines like morphine and methadone, or something similar to what the mother used during pregnancy; then the drugs are slowly decreased as the infant withdraws. Such infants are slow to grow and are poor eaters. Sometimes they succumb to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
A pregnant woman who is addicted to alcohol, drugs or tobacco can talk to her health care provider about reducing and quitting substance abuse and protecting her baby, preventing the infant being born addicted, but also suffering a lifetime from something that could have been prevented. Community resources are important, resources that aide women and their children in the substance abuse crises they face. Some of those resources are clinics, counseling centers, pediatric specialists and rehabilitation facilities. Too many Ohioans do not have access to these resources to cope with their addiction related problems.
For more information about NAS, contact Family Recovery Center at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. FRC promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities, and is a resource in our own backyard. The agency is funded, in part, by ODADAS (Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services).