Opiate abuse is increasing in the US and more babies entering foster care have prenatal opiate exposure. Adoption agencies also report that they are seeing more expectant moms who are considering placing their baby for adoption who have also used opiates, including methadone, during their pregnancy. As a result adoptive parents and foster parents need more information on effects of prenatal opiate exposure.
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, as well as legally prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and many others. It also includes drugs/medications used to treat opiate addiction, such as methadone and suboxone.
Foster parents and adoptive parents are often in the position of having to decide whether to adopt a baby that has been exposed to opiates prenatally.
5 Surprising Facts You May Not Know about Prenatal Opiate Exposure (Including Methadone)
- Prenatal exposure to opiates causes more severe short-term effects (primarily Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome/ “withdrawal”) compared to other drugs and alcohol but research has found that the long-term effects are often less damaging (cognitive development, learning disabilities, behavior, etc.).
- Whether or not the baby is born dependent and experiences withdrawal or has been diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome does not determine the severity of the long-term impacts.
- Methadone and suboxone protect the mother and child from exposure to bloodborne diseases from injectable drug abuse, such as Hepatitis, but are not better for the baby in terms of long and short-term impacts from opiate exposure during pregnancy.
- Methadone has a longer half-life than other opiates in the blood system; therefore, withdrawal in an infant exposed in utero may be longer than if mother had used other opiates.
- Long-term impacts of opiate exposure may be subtle and often do not show up until around age 5-8, including ADHD, trouble shifting between activities, unorganized, etc.
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Prenatal Opiate Exposure
I can’t recommend enough the Creating a Family Radio Show on Accepting an Adoption Match with Opiates, Methadone, or Hepatitis with Dr. Julia Bledsoe, a pediatrician specializing in both adoption medicine and prenatal drug and alcohol exposure. It is truly one of our best.
Dr. Bledsoe clearly and succinctly cuts through the tangle of research to help adoptive parents understand the short-term and long-term effects of prenatal opiate exposure.
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Like
- Impact of Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine
- Parenting Kids with Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposure
- Myths of Prenatal Alcohol and Drug Exposure
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there is an uncanny unique indifference in my son’s entire being from his three other siblings. It is not pertaining to academics but much deeper. I have not yet been able to pinpoint this phenomenom-like intelligence but he was born addicted to opiates-all prescription as i was pregnant and needed a hip replacement. After his one month weening he never got sick until he turned 15. He was inflicted with medulloblastoma and is now , three years later still fighting this b****!!!!!! i WISH TO GOD I WOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT THIS LINK, YET THAT IS NO EXCUSE! There are consequences despite what the pedatrician told me and he tried to reassure me, yet the risks were masked and understated. My son would not have been exactly the way I had him all those years and I would not trade that for anything , to alter one piece of him would be a crime in itself.
Oh, Marie. I’m so sorry to hear of your son’s struggle. Our thoughts and prayers for his healing are with you all. Thanks for sharing your story.
Can you cite the references for the information above? Thank you.
Yes, this information came from the Creating a Family Radio Show on Accepting an Adoption Match with Opiates, Methadone, or Hepatitis