Restorations Therapy Blog

Pregnant Women who Abuse Opioids put Their Unborn Children at Significant Risk

by on Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Would you believe that there already exist victims of the opioid epidemic who haven’t even been born yet? If that sounds like a science fiction plot, it’s not. 

Sadly, a new study shows that the consequences of opioid abuse can extend to the future generations of those battling addiction.

New research conducted at the Royal Hospital for Women in Australia demonstrated that children exposed to opioids while in the womb are three times as likely to be at risk for a severe intellectual disability versus children who were not exposed. Additionally, these children may have lower IQs than children whose mothers did not use opioids.

In the U.S., opioid use among pregnant women is up five-fold, with a baby born experiencing opioid withdrawal occurring roughly every 15 minutes. In 2014 over 30,000 babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome are more prone to physical ailments such as inadequately developed lungs and smaller than normal heads, as well as lower birth weights.

Even if a child’s exposure level to opioids in the womb is light or moderate, their developing brains and bodies can still be adversely affected.

What makes this study unique is that researchers tested the theory that the effects of opioid exposure in the womb can continue to affect children later in life, a little-researched area.

The study examined over 1,400 children who were exposed to opioids in the womb and nearly 3,000 children whose mothers did not use opioids while pregnant.

The results were astounding. Children who experienced exposure had a three-fold risk of having an IQ score below the normal range, while 6.3% lagged in intellectual scores, versus 2.3% of unexposed children. The study authors estimate that at least one in five pregnant women living in first world countries use some form of opioid while pregnant.

The sobering statistics associated with opioid abuse don’t start and stop with any specific age group. In 2017, 70,000 Americans died due to opioid overdoses. Experts say that the current opioid epidemic has decreased life expectancy in the U.S. for the past three years in a row.

How many more innocent lives will have to be adversely affected before the war on opioids can be declared won and over?

Located in Centennial, Colorado, Restoration Therapy works with patients who are struggling with addiction, intimacy disorders, and trauma who are seeking treatment. Restoration Therapy offers individualized and group therapy, workshops, psycho-educational classes, and more to. For more information, please call us at (720) 446-6585

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