What is the role of opiates in the pathogenesis of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)?

Updated: Dec 20, 2017
  • Author: Ashraf H Hamdan, MD, MBBCh, MSc, MRCP, FAAP; Chief Editor: Santina A Zanelli, MD  more...
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Answer

Opiates produce the most dramatic effects on both the mother and fetus. Aside from the withdrawal symptoms, common findings in infants exposed to opiates include low birth weight, prematurity, and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Because of its short half-life, heroin withdrawal may start as early as 24 hours after birth and usually peaks within 48-72 hours in 50-80% of infants born to mothers who are dependent on heroin. Some delayed withdrawal may occur as long as 6 days after birth. Sedative-hypnotics such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates have an even longer half-life, and withdrawal may not start until after the infant has been discharged from hospital (age 2 wk).


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