Newborn babies treated for drug withdrawal symptoms

At least two babies a week are being treated in WA!
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Perth hospitals are treating at least two newborns a week for withdrawal symptoms from drugs such as methamphetamine and opioids.

Figures from the WA Health Department show that about 100 babies a year are treated at public metropolitan hospitals for neo-natal withdrawal symptoms from their mother’s drug addiction.

Between 91 and 128 babies were treated each year from 2013 to 2016, and 91 babies were treated in the first 10 months of last year.

The figures also include babies treated at Joondalup and Peel health campuses and St John of God Midland Public Hospital.

Babies with drug withdrawal syndrome because of their addicted mother are known to have neonatal abstinence syndrome.

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The condition is diagnosed by assessing whether a mother has used drugs during pregnancy and monitoring the behaviour of babies using a specific scoresheet.

Symptoms of drug withdrawal can included tremors, irritability, poor weight gain and vomiting. Medication such as morphine is sometimes prescribed to reduce symptoms and risk of convulsions.

Most babies who suffer withdrawal show signs in the first 24 to 72 hours after birth but some can experience a late withdrawal up to two weeks after the birth. Babies can go through withdrawal symptoms for as long as six months.

A department spokeswoman said the Women and Newborn Drug and Alcohol Service provided a Statewide service with specialist clinical services and professional support to care for pregnant women with drug and alcohol dependence.

“Our midwifery-led team is based at King Edward Memorial Hospital and works alongside doctors, drug and alcohol specialist midwife social workers, dietitians and mental health professionals to ensure patients receive the highest level of care possible,” she said.

“WANDAS routinely cares for women with highly complex medical, social and psychiatric conditions and provides an outreach service to the women’s prison to provide pregnancy outreach care.”

Families needing help should go to or call the Alcohol and Drug Support Line on 9442 5000

This article originally appeared on The West Australian.

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