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Curtin University
Perinatal Care of Substance Using Mothers and Their Infants

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), also called neonatal withdrawal or passive addiction, is a condition resulting from exposure to opioids and other substances. Symptoms may occur as a result of exposure to a variety of drugs, including opiates, cocaine, amphetamines and alcohol. A high intake of marijuana, caffeine, volatile substances (such as petrol) and SSRI anti-depressants may also result in withdrawal symptoms. The severity and course of NAS is extremely varied, with symptoms usually appearing during the first 24 to 48 hours of life and lasting for anything up to six months.

Initial treatment for NAS should be based on a formal assessment of the severity of the condition and be primarily supportive as medical interventions may prolong hospitalisation and subject the infant to drugs that may not be necessary. Supportive therapy has been shown to reduce the effects of NAS and parents should be encouraged to use it as an ongoing part of the infant's care.