5 Surprising Facts You Need to Know about Prenatal Opiate Exposure

Dawn Davenport


Prenatal Opiate Exposure including methadone facts

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)

  1. 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.).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Image credit:
Background texture: katmary
Holding hands: Marlon Malabanan

12/12/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 3 Comments

3 Responses to 5 Surprising Facts You Need to Know about Prenatal Opiate Exposure

  1. Pingback: Prenatal Substance Exposure Resources – Adoption Associates

  2. Avatar Susan says:

    Can you cite the references for the information above? Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Content created by Creating a Family. And remember, there are no guarantees in adoption or infertility treatment. The information provided or referenced on this website should be used only as part of an overall plan to help educate you about the joys and challenges of adopting a child or dealing with infertility. Although the following seems obvious, our attorney insists that we tell you specifically that the information provided on this site may not be appropriate or applicable to you, and despite our best efforts, it may contain errors or important omissions. You should rely only upon the professionals you employ to assist you directly with your individual circumstances. CREATING A FAMILY DOES NOT WARRANT THE INFORMATION OR MATERIALS contained or referenced on this website. CREATING A FAMILY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS LIABILITY FOR ERRORS or omissions in this information and materials and PROVIDES NO WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, implied, express or statutory. IN NO EVENT WILL CREATING A FAMILY BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES, including without limitation direct or indirect, special, incidental, or consequential damages, losses or expenses arising out of or in connection with the use of the information or materials, EVEN IF CREATING A FAMILY OR ITS AGENTS ARE NEGLIGENT AND/OR ARE ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.