AUG 14, 2019 02:15 PM PDT

New drug to treat opioid use disorder during pregnancy is favorable for mom, and baby

WRITTEN BY: Nina Lichtenberg

On average, a baby is born in withdrawal from opioids every 15 minutes in the U.S., according to recent research.

Opioid use during pregnancy can result in a drug withdrawal syndrome in newborns called neonatal abstinence syndrome or neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome (NAS/ NOWS). About 50 to 80 percent of opioid-exposed infants require medication to manage their withdrawal symptoms, which typically manifest a few days after birth. These include irritability, difficulty soothing, trouble eating and sleeping, and diarrhea.

Naltrexone, buprenorphine, and methadone are three FDA-approved drugs prescribed to treat opioid use disorder. However, there are very few studies on the use and safety of naltrexone during pregnancy because the drug is new on the market. In a study published in Clinical Therapeutics, researchers followed mothers and their infants during pregnancy and after delivery from 2017 to 2019. Six of the mothers took naltrexone to treat their opioid use disorder before and during pregnancy, and 12 took buprenorphine. Researchers carefully monitored patients' opioid use, gestational age, birth weight, NICU admission and importantly, NOWS outcomes (i.e., diagnosis, medical treatment, and length of hospital stay).

Astonishingly, the infants born to women taking naltrexone showed no withdrawal symptoms during their initial hospital stays, compared to 92 percent of infants born to women taking buprenorphine. Also, 83 percent of the women in the naltrexone group breastfed, without any immediate harm to their infants in the perinatal period.

Previous studies compared methadone and buprenorphine use during pregnancy and found that buprenorphine was associated with less severe NOWS in infants compared to infants born to mothers who took methadone. Based on the current study, however, it seems that naltrexone may now be preferred over buprenorphine due to positive outcomes for both mother and baby.

Additionally, naltrexone may be safer than buprenorphine because it is administered as an extended-release injection medication, and has a lower risk of overdose or misuse. Perhaps the most important aspect of treating opioid use disorder during pregnancy is keeping mothers stable on their medication to decrease the risk of drug relapse, noted authors.

Source: EurekAlert!, ScienceDaily

About the Author
You May Also Like
JAN 18, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 18, 2020
The Cause of a New Autoimmune Disease is Discovered
Researchers have discovered a new autoinflammatory disease, which they have called CRIA (cleavage-resistant RIPK1-induced autoinflammatory) syndrome....
JAN 18, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 18, 2020
Potential Link Between Cannabis Use and Structural Changes to the Heart
Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London used MRI images of more than 3,000 people, 152 of them former or current cannabis users, to identify a...
JAN 18, 2020
Neuroscience
JAN 18, 2020
How PTSD Develops in the Mind
Close 1 in 4 people who experience severe trauma develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now, a recent study has identified how these traumatic expe...
JAN 18, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 18, 2020
Breathalyzers for Cannabis Users?
With Cannabis use on the rise across the country, scientists and law enforcement are working to develop technology to determine when a driver is stoned and...
JAN 18, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JAN 18, 2020
La Niña is associated with higher incidence of life-threatening diarrhea
Findings published recently in the journal Nature Communications suggest that La Niña climate conditions are linked to an increase in the incidence ...
JAN 18, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 18, 2020
To Save Others, Bacteria Can Self-Destruct When Infected by a Virus
Scientists were studying viruses that infect and kill bacteria as a medicine for bacterial infections over a hundred years ago, and they are a focus of recent research as well....
Loading Comments...