Last week, we highlighted some of the alarming statistics that surround the opioid epidemic and its effect on adoption and the foster care system. What that piece did not include was information on the children themselves and how they might be suffering from physical side effects of prenatal opiate exposure. If the current trend of opiate abuse continues, both foster care and adoption agencies can expect to see expectant mothers who have used opiates, including methadone, and children who suffer from side effects prenatal opioid exposure.
Side Effects of Prenatal Opiate Abuse
The National Center for Biotechnology provided an article titled Developmental Consequences of Fetal Exposure to Drugs: What We Know and What We Still Must Learn. This article provided information on a range of drugs, including opiates, and how they impact fetal brain development and overall growth. The article explains that children, who have been exposed to opiates in utero, experience withdrawal symptoms, low birthweight, smaller head circumference, heart defects, and a number of other symptoms.
The National Infertility & Adoption Education Organization notes that long lasting effects of opiates can vary in severity and mostly pertain to cognitive development. Children at the elementary school age who have been exposed to prenatal opiates may show a lack of motor skills, cognitive impairments, inattention, and hyperactivity disorders similar to ADHD.
A Solution? Prenatal Opiate Therapy
Although the side effects of prenatal opiate abuse are long lasting, there are prenatal treatments available to expectant mothers who suffer from opioid addiction. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both recommend opioid maintenance therapy. Opioid maintenance therapy is the process of decreasing the amount of opioids used by the birth mother, under medical supervision, to prevent maternal and fetal withdrawal symptoms and health complications.
The dangers of prenatal opiate abuse are complicated and far reaching. Education is a primary mechanism in combating public health crises that affect children. It is important to make sure the effects of prenatal opioid abuse are known in order to foster healthy development throughout the child’s life.
As always, our sources are provided below. We encourage our readers to continue to educate themselves on all matters of adoption and to reach out to our staff if there is an issue you would like us to look into if you would like to learn more. We thank you for reading.