Abusing drugs during pregnancy is one of the riskiest things a woman can do. Unfortunately, many women become pregnant while they are already addicted to drugs. This may happen with a number of drugs, however opiates are one area of extreme concern. Opiate use during pregnancy can result in low birth weight, premature birth, low blood sugar, and infant death. Additionally, babies can be born addicted to opioids, and may experience withdrawal symptoms which may cause the baby to be restless, have a fever, and in need of opioid replacement.
Options for Pregnant Opioid Addicts
There are three main options for opioid addicts while pregnant. First, they may continue abusing opiates and risk the health and life of their baby. Abusing drugs while pregnant is not the healthiest choice, and is even illegal in some states. Those using opiates generally do not take care of themselves well, and if a mother is not taking care of herself, she is not taking care of her baby. Second, the user may attempt to quit "cold turkey." Ceasing intake of opioids without opioid replacement therapy may cause miscarriage and low birth weight. In addition, the mother may go through intense psychological and physical changes, and may not be able to adequately care for her unborn. Finally, the pregnant woman my opt to partake in addiction therapy such as methadone replacement or Subutex replacement. This is the healthiest choice, as long as the woman is taking her medications as prescribed.
Methadone vs Subutex and Pregnancy
Methadone is decreasing in popularity due to its long-acting mechanisms and moderate binding power. Easily abused, methadone is becoming a street drug, and many who used methadone at one point for medical purposes have switched over to Suboxone or Subutex. Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in both Suboxone and Subutex is less likely to cause addiction, and has a calmer withdrawal period.
More clinical studies have been done on the effects of methadone during pregnancy than the effects of buprenorphine during pregnancy. Methadone has been proven to not be damaging during pregnancy to either the woman nor her fetus. However, babies born addicted to methadone suffer serious withdrawal symptoms, and may need to be kept in the hospital for several days after birth.
Studies have shown that Suboxone is not safe to use during pregnancy, as the presence of naloxone creates the risk of a rapid detox, and unsafe physical conditions for the mother and her child. Subutex has become the choice for buprenorphine administration during pregnancy. Studies have not been done extensively on Subutex use, but the evidence collected thus far clearly shows that it is not dangerous to use during pregnancy. Using Subutex during pregnancy also does not cause strong withdrawal symptoms in comparison with methadone.
Subutex use during pregnancy is safe as far as scientists know, but research is still being done. Abusing illicit substances during pregnancy is definitely not safe, and quitting cold turkey may be harmful. Although more studies have been done on methadone, both the mother and the child may suffer withdrawal symptoms.