NIH funds neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome study


The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding a new study to investigate treatment options for neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.

Opioids are usually prescribed for pain relief during pregnancy, but they can affect the health and well-being of the pregnant women and result in withdrawal symptoms in infants.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms in newborns, which often include tremors, excessive crying, sleep deprivation and swallowing difficulties, are caused by exposure to the class of drugs during pregnancy.

Titled Advancing Clinical Trials in Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (ACT NOW), the current NIH-funded study focuses on supporting clinical care of such newborns.

The ACT NOW study is funded by NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the NIH Office of the Director’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Programme.

NICHD director Dr Diana W Bianchi said: “Public health and research communities cannot overlook the opioid epidemic’s effects on pregnant women and their infants.

"ACT NOW will supplement research on opioids and pregnancy outcomes by addressing critical gaps on how best to treat and manage opioid withdrawal syndrome in newborns."

“ACT NOW will supplement research on opioids and pregnancy outcomes by addressing critical gaps on how best to treat and manage opioid withdrawal syndrome in newborns.”

Researchers involved in the study will use clinical assessment tools and a wide range of laboratory methods to evaluate the risk and severity associated with neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.

The study will also help develop new research protocols.

It includes collaborators from NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of General Medical Sciences, and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


Image: A sample of raw opium. Photo: courtesy of Erik Fenderson.