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A to Z: Drug Withdrawal, Newborn

May also be called: Newborn Drug Withdrawal; Neonatal Drug Withdrawal; Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome; NAS

Newborn drug withdrawal happens when a baby is exposed to addictive drugs while still in the mother's womb. The baby can develop a dependency on the drug and may have withdrawal symptoms shortly after birth.

More to Know

When a pregnant woman uses certain illegal or prescription drugs, the drugs pass through her body into the developing fetus. If the woman becomes addicted to a drug, her baby gets addicted, too. When the baby is born and is no longer getting the drug, he or she may have many problems as the drug's lingering effects wear off.

The illness that can come from stopping a drug is known as withdrawal. Signs of newborn drug withdrawal depend on the drug and include blotchy skin, diarrhea, fussiness, fever, vomiting, tremors, and slow development.

Substances that can cause newborn drug withdrawal include illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as a number of prescription medications. Alcohol can have similar effects. Newborn drug withdrawal usually starts within the first 10 days after birth, and can vary in seriousness from mild to severe, even causing seizures in some cases.

Treatment also depends on the drug involved and how severe the symptoms are. Steps can be taken to help keep babies calm, and those who are dehydrated can be given intravenous (IV) fluids. In severe cases, babies may be given medicines to ease the withdrawal.

Keep in Mind

Newborn drug withdrawal can last for as long as 6 months, be very troubling for parents, and cause many health problems in a newborn baby. If a woman is pregnant or planning to be pregnant, she should avoid using addictive drugs or alcohol to help keep her baby safe.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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