On your average day, in the United States, there are around 10,650 babies born, give or take. Unfortunately though it is said that the number of babies born addicted to prescription painkillers and psychiatric drugs is growing at an alarming rate, and the babies are suffering some detrimental consequences due to neonatal drug withdrawal.
Neonatal drug withdrawal occurs when a baby who has been exposed to drugs in the womb develops withdrawal symptoms. This occurs because the baby is no longer exposed to the drug the mother was taking. This condition can be caused by medicines, alcohol, and illegal drugs. It can take weeks to months for a baby to fully withdraw from a drug. Without treatment, this can be a life-threatening condition.
According to an April 2011 article in Psychiatry Online babies born to women with psychotic disorders often have the deck stacked against them. Their mothers tend to receive less prenatal care; have poorer nutrition; use more tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs; are unlikely to be married; and often have limited social support. New labeling recently promulgated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that these babies may also be susceptible to withdrawal symptoms from their mothers’ antipsychotic medications, but some practitioners fear the results of those warnings will be worse than the symptoms of withdrawal.
Early in 2011, the FDA posted a Safety Alert for Human Medical Products notifying health care professionals that the pregnancy section of drug labels for the entire class of antipsychotic drugs was updated. The new drug labels contain more and consistent information about the potential risk for extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) and withdrawal symptoms in newborns whose mothers were treated with antipsychotic medications during the third trimester of pregnancy. Drugs that received the warning included: Haldol, FazaClo, Fanapt, Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify, Geodon, Invega, Loxitane, Moban, Navane, Orap, Saphris, Stelazine, Thorazine, and the olanzapine-fluoxetine combination known as Symbyax and are primarily used in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The symptoms of EPS and withdrawal in newborns may include agitation, abnormally increased or decreased muscle tone, tremor, sleepiness, severe difficulty breathing, and difficulty in feeding. In some newborns, the symptoms subside within hours or days and do not require specific treatment; other newborns may require longer hospital stays.
According to the FDA, the update was prompted by a search of the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System database through October 29, 2008, which identified 69 cases of neonatal EPS or withdrawal with all antipsychotic drugs.
“Symptoms reported included agitation, hypertonia, hypotonia, tremor, somnolence, respiratory distress, and feeding disorder,” according to the Safety Alert. “Blood levels were not provided, making it not possible to determine whether the events resulted from antipsychotic drug toxicity or withdrawal. Some cases described the time at which the onset of symptoms occurred, and they ranged from birth to one month after birth. The symptoms varied in severity; some neonates recovered within hours or days without specific treatment, while others required intensive care unit support and prolonged hospitalization. Medications used to treat a suspected withdrawal reaction in the neonates included phenobarbital and benzodiazepines.”