- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2017

There’s promising news for newborns who were exposed to opioids in utero — withdrawal symptoms resolved earlier when treated with buprenorphine as opposed to morphine, according to a new study.

Buprenorphine is a narcotic used to treat opioid addiction. It’s usually delivered in the form of a dissolvable tablet or film, but it was approved as an implant last year to better treat addicts.

For the study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, researchers followed 63 full-term infants that were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, having been exposed to opioids while in utero.

The infants were randomly assigned to either receive a dose of buprenorphine under their tongue every eight hours, or oral morphine every four hours.

Treatment with buprenorphine lasted 15 days for infants, compared to 28 days with morphine, and the average hospital stay was 21 days compared to 33 days.

The incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome increased by 383% between 2000 and 2012, according to the CDC. In 2012, 21,732 babies were born experiencing symptoms of opioid withdrawal.

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome include tremor, irritability, poor feeding, loose stool, among others, and need pharmacological intervention, wrote the authors, who are from the Sidney Kimmel Medical College and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia working with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

However, the CDC has monitored a slight decrease in the number of pregnant women and women of reproductive age abusing opioids, from 2011 to 2013. The department recommends increased access to effective contraception to continue this trend.

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