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NIDA editorial urges safer opioid prescribing practices for pregnant women


January 13, 2016

Baby bump Photo by morgueFile.com

Recent research sheds light on the risks of prescribing opioids to pregnant women and their exposed infants – underscoring the importance of following good opioid prescription practices, according to an editorial published today in the British Medical Journal by Dr. Nora D. Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The editorial points out that the high rate of opioid prescriptions for pregnant women in the U.S. has been connected to a rise in the number of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Estimates suggest that 14-22% of pregnant women have received an opioid prescription. Research has also found that the risk of NAS increases significantly with longer term opioid use or when use occurred late in pregnancy.   

In the editorial, Dr. Volkow emphasizes that the known association of opioids with NAS suggests that they should only be prescribed for short term use for pregnant women in severe pain. If long term use is unavoidable, such as for women in need of buprenorphine or methadone maintenance therapy for heroin addiction, then careful assessment and monitoring should be in place to minimize the risk of overdose, NAS and misuse.

Reference: “Opioids in pregnancy” by Nora D. Volkow, M.D., Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse and published online January 12, 2016 in the British Medical Journal.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2016, January 13). NIDA editorial urges safer opioid prescribing practices for pregnant women . Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2016/01/nida-editorial-urges-safer-opioid-prescribing-practices-pregnant-women

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