UNM joins study to treat neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome

Health News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The University of New Mexico is joining a national study in an effort to help treat neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome. In a press release from UNM Health Sciences, newborns who have been exposed to opioid drugs in utero reportedly show signs of NOWS which leads to them being irritable and may cause them to have issues feeding, sleeping, and being difficult to soothe.

UNM will join the study which compares medications to treat NOWS. The university reports that recently doctors have discovered that in most instances, babies will do better when in the room with their primary caregiver, with breastfeeding and substantial skin-to-skin contact.


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However, UNM states that in roughly 20 to 30% of cases medication may be necessary. A multi-site study will look at the effectiveness of three medications used to wean infants from their opioid dependency.

The three drugs, methadone, morphine, and buprenorphine, are classified as opioids but researchers say they are metabolized at different rates with differing effects. Currently, buprenorphine is not being used for the treatment of NOWS at UNM but according to the medical director of the University of New Mexico Milagro Clinic Larry Leeman, MD, MPH, it is typically used by pregnant women with opioid use disorder.

Leeman is the principal investigator for a two-year, $445,000 grant award under the National Institutes of Health Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative for the study. UNM reports the study will look at the length of treatment, length of stay in the hospital, weight loss or gain, and additional developmental measures.

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