They are the youngest faces behind the escalating opioid crisis – babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), which is caused by exposure to drugs in the uterus.
Babies born with NAS experience withdrawal after birth, and according to some medical professionals, more and more babies are beginning their lives with debilitating addictions.
Amanda Struhar’s two children experienced NAS at birth. Struhar is a recovering addict now, but started using opioids in high school.
A few years ago, fentanyl became her drug of choice and while addicted, she found out she was pregnant with her first child. The Children’s Aid Society became involved forcing her parents to take full custody of her child and she was put into a methadone program. At that point, she found out she was pregnant with her second child.
Both children were hospitalized and given morphine after birth which is common practice for babies born with NAS.
According to the Canadian Institute for health information, from 2015 to 2016, 1,744 babies in Canada were hospitalized with NAS and 927 of those babies were from Ontario. Dr. Maya Nadar, who runs a program for substance use and pregnancy out of St. Michael’s hospital, says she’s noticed a jump in the number of babies with NAS.
“Although this program is relatively new we are noticing an increase in street use and fentanyl which is a big one”, says Nadar.
Nadar adds methods for treating infants are effective, but also quite costly. “I worry that if this exponentially continue to climb we might not have the resources to treat all these babies and that’s what I’m concerned about.”