The number of babies born addicted to opioids continues to grow. As the opioid crisis ravages the USA, mothers often lack the socioeconomic resources to seek help for their addictions.
One charity, Urgent Love, raises money to give these addicted mothers resources for the education and treatment they need. With Grey and Tool of North America, the charity has designed a series of prototypes for products aimed at helping infants born addicted to opioids feed and heal. The line, named Opi’s, hopes to help both parents and their children thrive.
What Urgent Love Hopes to Do With Opi’s
Opi’s ultimate goal is twofold — help babies born with NAS/NOWS heal and prevent other women from becoming pregnant while still addicted to pain medications. The beauty of their mission is they do not seek to judge — only to help.
The Opi line contains products like a bottle with an attached respirator, intended to help babies with NAS/NOWS breathe while they feed. It also includes a rattle and a spoon specially designed for these infants. While the products are not yet available, those interested in supporting the Urgent Love project can connect on social media for updates.
Opioids’ Impact on Infants
When an expectant mother uses opioids during pregnancy, the medication passes to the infant through the placenta. Then, when these babies are born, they develop neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NOWS).
Every 15 minutes in America, an infant is born with NAS/NOWS. These babies often suffer from low birth weight and respiratory conditions. Additionally, certain tasks like feeding prove problematic, as the baby cannot both breathe and suckle at the same time.
The cost of treating these babies creates a sizeable economic strain. Most receive treatment paid for by state Medicaid funds. These totals add up to millions of dollars annually.
Origins and Treatment of the Opioid Crisis
Experts believe addiction has a strong genetic component. Studies performed on twins reveal that 40% to 60% of susceptibility to addiction stems from hereditary components. Additionally, early exposure to opioids may increase the tendency toward addiction later in life if family-intervention measures fail to break the cycle.
The pharmaceutical and medical industries play a huge role in the opioid epidemic as well. Recently, a multi-state sweep resulted in the arrest of 60 people, including doctors, for their role in spurring the epidemic.
Some patients mistakenly believe any medication legally prescribed by their doctor must be safe. Others understand the dangers of certain drugs, such as Oxycontin, but erroneously believe others, such as Tramadol, safer. Although Tramadol does contain less opioid content than others, the drug nevertheless crosses the placental barrier, causing damage.
Opioid withdrawal treatment takes place in both inpatient and outpatient settings. Medications can help ease withdrawal symptoms, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help women change defeating thoughts that lead to substance abuse. Until a woman heals from addiction, medical professionals recommend using birth control.
Knowing If Your Baby Suffers NAS/NOWS
Symptoms of NAS/NOWS include the following:
- Body shakes and convulsions
- Fussiness, particularly uttering high pitched cries or crying excessively
- Trouble sleeping and eating
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Breathing problems, including stuffy nose, rapid respiration and sneezing
- Feverish, blotchy skin
If you used opioids during your pregnancy, please seek medical treatment if your baby exhibits any of these symptoms. NAS/NOWS treatment includes medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, IV fluids for babies who cannot eat and higher-calorie formula to help babies gain weight.
Helping Babies and Mothers Heal From Addiction
The best way to prevent NAS/NOWS is to get women treatment before they get pregnant. With the Opi’s line from Urgent Love, women who hope to have children can look forward to a cleaner, drug-free future.