Risks of Opioid Abuse by Pregnant Women

Despite the best intentions of the physicians, the effort to improve pain management has led to some adverse health consequences across the United States. Among all repercussions, the rise in prescription drug abuse remains the most serious one.

The use of prescription drugs is primarily restricted to acute pain arising from severe injuries, medical conditions or surgical procedures. They are only meant to be used when the non-opioid alternatives are ineffective. However, misuse and nonmedical use of pain relief drugs has led to an epidemic of opioid abuse, leading to significant spike in the rate of drug overdose and death.

Since 1999, the number of opioid overdose cases has quadrupled. Despite the above marked increase, it did not reflect any reduction in the reports of pain. Such has been the menace of opioid abuse that over 33,000 overdose deaths were witnessed in just 2015, the highest recorded death toll in a given year.

Opioid abuse occurs in most age groups and both sexes. Although men are more likely to abuse prescription drugs, women are now closing the gap. Though the risk of developing opioid use disorder (OUD) exists in both males and females, gender differences can alter the expression of this condition. Due to biological and social reasons, women stand more vulnerable and susceptible to the symptoms of opioid abuse.

Women have been found to be more likely to be prescribed these medications for a long-term use. Moreover, the progression of opioid dependence occurs at an accelerated pace among women. Every three minutes a woman is taken to the emergency department (ED) due to the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs. In more extreme cases, an intentional overdose of prescription drugs is involved in one in 10 suicides among women.

Impact of opioids on mothers and infants

The consequences of substance abuse, including that of prescription drugs, among women is most extensive during their reproductive years. Studies suggest that the abuse of opioid by women in this age group is a major risk factor for them and their newborns.

Indulgence in opioid abuse during the critical phase of pregnancy increases the risk of inflicting birth defects, such as congenital heart disease, neural tube defects and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), among the newborns. These risks are significantly higher when a woman is exposed to opioids in the early stages of pregnancy.

The babies exposed to opioids also risk the development of withdrawal symptoms, cognitive impairment and developmental problems, which are likely to accompany them throughout their lives. The newborns diagnosed with NAS experience a range of health-related complications, such as tremors, rapid breathing, slow weight gain, stuffy nose, sweating, vomiting, persistent irritability and crying, sleep problems, and problems with feeding and breathing.

In most cases, pregnant women with OUD are late in seeking medical intervention due to lack of awareness or stigma attached to drug abuse, especially by women, and miss the sessions with doctors. However, this is extremely dangerous because early and routine prenatal care is essential for the healthy growth of the child.

Stemming the tide

Given the chronicity of opioid addiction, it is important to screen women, especially those who are pregnant, for OUD, as well as their infants who may have been affected. These women are also at risk of developing postpartum depression and may require support for breastfeeding.

Women who use opioids intravenously also risk the development of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C. However, with the exception of HIV-positive pregnant women, those with OUD can also avail breastfeeding support that encourages mother-infant bonding. This can effectively diminish the severity and time period of withdrawal symptoms.

Furthermore, it is also crucial to implement steps for identifying the signs of a relapse. This would not only assist a woman in receiving the help she requires, but could also significantly reduce the risks to the infant.

Recovery from opioid addiction

Opioid addiction has been termed as one of the worst drug crises in the U.S. millions of men and women across the nation. Moreover, it has become the main driver of overdose deaths across all age groups. In the light of the above findings, it is essential to educate patients about the consequences of opioid abuse. The medical practitioners should ensure to prescribe these medications for the treatment of chronic pain.

Dangers of Stimulant Abuse

Stimulants or psychoactive substances, including illicit drugs such as cocaine or crack (variant of cocaine) and methamphetamine, as well as legal medications to manage ADHD disorders such as Adderall and Ritalin, produce a state of increased alertness. Some common party drugs such as ecstasy, benzylpiperazine (BZP) and methylone also come in the category of stimulants. The means a user adopts for administering the drug is responsible for intensifying the euphoric effects and increasing the risk of addiction. A person who injects or smokes the drug is more likely to experience its adverse effects within a short span of time as it causes the drug to reach the brain sooner. Users are also more liable to become victims of abuse and dependence.

Abuse of stimulants is a cause of concern. According to a recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 1.7 million people 12 or older were current misusers of stimulants equivalent to 0.6 percent of this population. Further, 92,000 youths aged 12 to 17 were current misusers of stimulants, or 0.4 percent of adolescents. Around 767,000 young adults aged 18 to 25 were reported to have misused stimulants in the past month, corresponding to nearly 2.2 percent of the total population belonging to the same age group.

After a lull, cocaine abuse is on the rise again. According to SAMHSA, the number of people trying cocaine in 2011 was 670,000. The number dropped to 601,000 in 2013. However, by 2015 it had risen to 968,000. The latest survey reveals that approximately, 1.9 million people aged 12 or older were current users of cocaine, including about 432,000 current users of crack.

Physiological and psychological health problems

The brain gets accustomed to stimulants with recurrent use and craves for more to get the desired high. A user may become tolerant within a few weeks. Listed below are some of the dangers of stimulant abuse:

Physiological health problems: Some of the complications associated with stimulant use are cardiovascular damage, increased blood pressure and changes in heart rhythm. It can also cause seizures, breathing difficulties and loss of muscle control. Individuals who use an injectable to get the high have an increased risk of contracting diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis B, C and D. Long-term abuse can also be fatal.

Poor judgement and other psychological impairments: Stimulant abuse is associated with poor judgment and decision-making abilities. As per a 2013 study, cocaine can rewire changes in the brain in a way that the drug dominates the decision-making process. Mundane tasks have less power to activate the brain’s decision-making centers. Those using drugs risk everything from job and money to family and relationships. They are not even afraid of getting into criminal activities as they cannot think practically. Apart from a poor sense of judgement, stimulant abuse is also responsible for causing psychological problems such as paranoia, delusions, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Psychosocial problems and increased risk of incarceration: A person who is addicted to drugs fails to attend to family and friends, and has a diminishing social circle. The risk of incarceration is also high as he or she may resort to unfair means such as robbery to get the supply of drugs. Abusing drugs can transform someone from a responsible human being into a wastrel.

Dangerous if taken without medical prescription: Teens, who misuse drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may soon get addicted to it. While initially ADHD meds cause a feeling of euphoria, the effect wears off after a couple of hours. Thereafter, the child feels sleepy and confused but finds it difficult to fall asleep. This disturbs the body’s sleep-wake cycle and is harmful in the long run. Prolonged use of one stimulant also increases the risk of a person turning to harder drugs.

Opiate Rapid Detox

The ability to complete treatment for an addiction to strong pain-relievers greatly increases after opiate rapid detox. Since withdrawal is experienced under general anesthesia, there are little to no remaining symptoms that may trigger a relapse. Instead, participants in a recovery program are able to concentrate on what caused dependence to develop in the first place and what can be done to reduce the risk of having future issues with opiates. Inpatient treatment following rapid detox typically includes individual and group counseling sessions and the exploration of massage therapy and other therapies that may naturally ease physical pain and increase overall relaxation.

Anybody with a dependence on powerful opiates may benefit from an advanced form of detox. Prescription drugs and heroin are the two most common forms of opiates associated with addiction. Nearly 25 percent of the individuals using heroin do so because of an opiate addiction. With prescription drugs, dependence often develops over time as the body builds up a tolerance to opiates, which leads to increased use of pain meds to achieve the same results. Patients considering opiate rapid detox to start their recovery will undergo a thorough physical and mental health evaluation to determine if it’s the right option.

After completing a health screening, the process of rapid detox and withdrawal begins, and after care continues in a supervised facility. Not having to deal with potentially distracting and life-threatening withdrawal symptoms allow patients to shift their focus to developing new ways to cope with an urge to return to previous habits. If opiates were taken for pain relief, non-opiate pain management techniques may be recommended. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death in the United States. If you or someone you love is dealing with an addiction, opiate rapid detox may provide the added incentive needed to commit to a recovery program.

Under normal circumstances, withdrawal can take up to a week to complete. Patients usually cannot begin a treatment program until withdrawal is over and opiates are out of their system. This extended period of time presents several opportunities to return to previous habits. With opiate rapid detox, after care usually starts the next day at a well-staffed inpatient facility, so there is no period without supervision. Preparing for accelerated detox typically involves an evaluation of physical and emotional well-being and other screenings to identify any underlying health issues. If given the okay, patients are encouraged to fully commit to their recovery.