An innovative, new program at the University of Kentucky, PATHways, uses the latest science to effectively treat the the most vulnerable victims of America’s looming opioid crisis—pregnant women and mothers with newborns—by providing both prenatal and addiction care to mothers with substance use disorders.
PATHways doctors first get women to switch to an effective opioid designed to reduce cravings in addiction without getting users high but that’s just the beginning. New moms are also encouraged to cuddle their babies after birth rather than having their new babies whisked away for “safety’s sake.”
“Between 2000 and 2009, the proportion of pregnant Americans using opioids increased nearly five-fold, according to one estimate. Between 2000 and 2012, the percent of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome also increased almost five-fold,” notes Diep.
A few years ago, nearly 22,000 babies in America, or about one every 24 minutes, were born in withdrawal. Today, however, Kentucky has a neonatal abstinence syndrome rate almost three times the national average.
Three of PATHways’ founders say they came up with the program in response to the sudden influx of the drug-using moms they were treating.
Hopefully, more programs like PATHways will soon open after the passage Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, which authorized $181 million in new funding for treatment of substance use disorders, including those for pregnant women.