What is the prognosis 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...
  • Print

Infants born to mothers who are chemically dependent face not only the experience of sudden withdrawal from poly intoxicants but also other medical and social challenges. Prognosis widely varies and depends on the family, socioeconomic variables, and whether either or both parents continue to use illicit drugs. A home environment with an addicted mother is a compromising variable.

Irner et al showed that children of mothers ceasing or decreasing their use of substances up to time of the birth delivered healthier babies than the mothers who continued to use substances. In addition, their results indicated that early intervention, including treatment of addiction during pregnancy, prenatal care, and psychosocial support, can help to prevent some developmental defects of newborn children of substance-using mothers. [32]

Long-term problems of children exposed to illicit drugs in utero include adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. Lower intelligence quotient scores have been reported in children with in utero exposure to cocaine or methadone. Speech, perceptual, and cognitive disturbances have been reported in toddlers who were exposed to opiates. Difficulties with expressive language articulation have been reported in children of mothers who abused cocaine. Behavioral problems are also reported in children of mothers who have taken illicit substances in pregnancy. These include lower levels of learning and adapting to new situations; higher sensitivity to their environment resulting in irritability, agitation, aggression, poor social skills; and a lack of imitative play and late emergence of symbolic play.

In utero opioid exposure may have the potential to also affect gastrointestinal tract and the gut biome, which, in turn, may impair immunity and protection against pathogens, thereby affecting health over the long term. [33]

Prenatal exposure to marijuana has been associated with increased levels of depression during childhood. [34] Another study showed increased hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention symptoms, and delinquency has been associated with prenatal marijuana use. [35]

The severity of withdrawal signs, including seizures, has not been proven to be associated with differences in long-term outcome after intrauterine drug exposure. Furthermore, treatment of drug withdrawal may not alter the long-term outcome.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!