Background: Narcotic abuse has steadily become more prevalent in Israel and may result in an increasing number of children exposed prenatally to narcotics, with a consequent increase in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Objective: To report our experience with infants born to narcotic-addicted women between the years 1995 and 1998 at the Soroka University Medical Center.
Methods: The medical records of 24 newborns and their drug-addicted mothers admitted to our Medical Center for parturition were analyzed retrospectively. A diagnosis of NAS was established on the basis of the clinical presentation and anamnesis. The Finnegan Neonatal Abstinence Scoring System was used to assess drug withdrawal. Urine toxicological analysis for narcotics was done only for the year 1998.
Results: Of the 24 newborn infants exposed prenatally to narcotics 23 (96%) developed NAS, and 78% (18 of the 23) had a Finnegan score of 8 or more. These 18 infants were treated pharmacologically (tincture of opium and/or phenobarbital) until the score was reduced to less than 8, after which they received supportive treatment. In one child who became lethargic after the first dose of tincture of opium, the medication was stopped and supportive treatment alone was given. Four of the five neonates with scores of 7 and less were given supportive treatment. One of five infants who had a low Finnegan score at birth nevertheless received pharmacological therapy to prevent further deterioration of his physical state since he was born with severe dyspnea. Ten of the 24 children (42%) were followed for lengths of time ranging from 6 to 22 months after discharge, all of whom showed normal development.
Conclusions: About three-quarters of newborns exhibiting withdrawal syndrome required pharmacological therapy. Previous information on maternal drug abuse is a crucial criterion for early detection and treatment.