The Effects of Opioids
Opiate & Pregnancy
What Are The Risks Involved?
You probably know opiates and the risks associated with their use. You probably know them from the experience of someone else, or you have been through the addiction yourself. No one begins with a desire to be an addict, but it can happen, especially because opiates are so accessible and come in various forms.
The situation becomes a greater risk when you are pregnant – the chances of the drug contents passing through the placenta and getting absorbed by the body of the fetus are very high, resulting in several risks not only to you but also to your unborn child. You may need to go through an opiate detox when pregnant to minimize the chances of harm to your child. However, even with the risks that you may know, there are facts and myths floating around, and this may create ambiguity on the issue.
• What are opiates and how do they work?
The term ‘opiates’ refers to street drugs as well as medications that act as painkillers. In addition, their side effect includes a ‘high’ feeling that may last for several hours to days when taken in high doses. They include drugs such as heroin, morphine, Vicodin, fentanyl, OxyContin and methadone. The painkiller effect comes from them binding to the opioid receptors in the CNS (Central Nervous System), which includes the brain, respiratory system, spinal cord, and circular systems.
This leads to the blockage of sending accurate pain signals to the brain, and the brain interprets this as lack of pain in the affected body area. This brings relief, as well as a relaxed feeling and ease in breathing. The major problem with opiates lies in the high rate of addiction. The desire to avoid pain may drive an individual to seek more of the drug to quell any signs of discomfort, in addition to seeking the elusive ‘high’ feeling.
In fact, many Americans are opiate addicts, with as many as two million suffering from the addiction, according to data from the CDCP (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Did you know that most addictions to heroin as well as fentanyl start with abuse of prescription opiates?
• Why are opiates dangerous?
The abuse of prescription opiates can also lead to overdoses and death, and the rate in America is unfortunately increasing – heroin, for instance, was responsible for the increase in death by six times between the years 2011 to 2014. Prescription opiate overdoses, on the other hand, are the cause of death for 165,000 people from 1999 to 2014. If you are pregnant, the risk of addiction is even higher for you.
In fact, data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) show that women of reproductive age within the US (fifteen to 44 years old) have increasing tendencies of opiate abuse and problems with opioid withdrawal, while as many as 28% that have private insurance have opioid prescriptions from healthcare providers. Here are some interesting facts and myths on opiate use during pregnancy:
» Fact – When you abuse opiates in pregnancy, they harm the fetus…
Unfortunately, opiates can pass through the placenta and get to your baby. They lead to several complications, which include stunting the growth of the child even after birth, cause premature births, in addition to abruptio placentae – a condition that leads to detachment of the placenta from the uterine wall. This leads to miscarriages or death of the fetus while in the womb.
» Fact – Babies that have opiate exposure experience withdrawal symptoms after birth…
Pregnancy is a very sensitive period for both the child and the mother. Even when you use opiates while in the third trimester, your baby will still be addicted to opiates when they are born. These have the effect of interfering with the digestion, sleep patterns, and breathing of your child.
In addition, the baby tends to be more irritable, hyperactive, frequent crying, has heavy sweating, and stiffness. The baby, therefore, will have to stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), as well as/or receiving low opiate doses that assist their body to wean off the drugs.
» Fact – Using heroin or other opiates (including prescription ones) can lead to problems for your family and you…
The fact remains – using opiates and abusing prescription drugs is illegal. They can lead to issues with the law, not to mention jail terms. Families suffer as well due to the large amount of money that is spent on drugs, and you can contract diseases or viruses such as Hepatitis or HIV.
» Myth – Quitting opiates suddenly is a valid option when you find out you are pregnant…
Keep in mind – regardless of whether you are pregnant or not, going ‘cold turkey’ on a drug you are addicted to is never a good idea. It can cause problems, especially in pregnancy. These risks include pre-term labour or premature birth, placental abruption, stillbirth and growth problems in the child.
The best solution is to discuss in length with your doctor or healthcare provider, as they can advise and give you prescriptions of safer opiates to help your body wean off the drug.
» Myth – Nobody can assist you to manage the addiction…
Similar to starting off on the road to addiction, you can also stop. There are methods that assist you to recover from addiction and ensure that your pregnancy is safe and you give birth to a healthy child.
» Myth -Taking opiates in pregnancy leads to birth defects…
This is not entirely true, and it is not proven in some regards. Results of studies differ on this issue, as some show higher risks of heart defects in the fetus when you are in the first trimester, while other studies dispute it.
Potential effects of opioids on both the mother and child are risky. More numbers of women are suffering from addiction to opiates, and this is becoming a major concern. However, if you have an opioid addiction, go through an opiate withdrawal program gradually. It is not good to quit it suddenly since it will harm the baby.
Take good care of yourself,