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Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome | Cincinnati Children's

been a long road for Melinda Marcum and her young son, DeMichael.She started taking opioids in 2012 after her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The pain pills progressed to heroin.Eventually, Melinda stopped, but then started again after the death of her daughter at the age of five.“It was like the worse it had ever been, I didn’t realize I was pregnant until March, so from December until March I was using.”Melinda eventually went into detox, where she was given buprenorphine, an opioid medication used to treat opioid addiction.In June, homeless, she showed up at First Step Home in Cincinnati, a residential treatment center where women live with their children as they recover from substance abuse.“Reality hits, and you know that you’ve…you are the reason that’s happening.”The opioid epidemic doesn’t just touch adults. DeMichael was born in withdrawal and spent a month in newborn intensive care.His withdrawal symptoms were strong, and he eventually went home on a prescription, to ease the muscle tightness, jitteriness, and inability to be comforted.Today, DeMichael is a patient at the Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS, follow-up clinic at Cincinnati Children’s. “There’s that smile I’ve been waiting for.”Gail Hertenstein is DeMichael’s nurse practitioner at the clinic. “Melinda keeps all of her appointments, we keep close tabs on him and he is meeting all of his developmental milestones, he’s doing great, he’s doing great.”The NAS clinic provides developmental screening, occupational and physical therapy, and education about nutrition and feeding.As the babies become toddlers, they are evaluated for language and communication, behavioral issues and overall development.“The long-term implications for opiate exposure is still unknown …this clinic to my knowledge is one of the few nationwide that we have””Everybody was talking about the heroine epidemic but everybody is talking about the addicts, talking about the overdoses, and where were the children left in all of this.If we don’t address the children, then this is just going to go on.”Unfortunately, business is booming.In 2016, about 4 percent of babies were exposed to opioids in utero, when a baby needs treatment for withdrawal, the average length of stay in newborn intensive care is 16-18 days, and nationally the average cost is $66,000.“Parental addiction is a very disruptive situation and the child should not have to suffer because of that.”Each year, as many as 12,000 babies in the United States are born with Fetal Alcohol syndrome, and the results are devastating. Whether the same will be true for those babies born with NAS is something the clinic will be studying. In the meantime, the clinic is doing its best to get families help as early as possible care.“Today is the third, I had my son on the third, I got clean on the third, I am eight months clean today.It works, it really does work and it’s such a better way of living.”

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