Children’s Specialized Hospital is developing full-spectrum treatment for infants who start life addicted to opioids

Life for a newborn whose mother is addicted to heroin is precarious. And for the most part, it’s up to hospitals to save the lives of the tiniest victims of opioid addicts.

While state policymakers have spent the past two years focused on ways to stem the epidemic of heroin and other opioids across the state, healthcare professionals across New Jersey are using every means at their disposal, including medication, to wean these babies off their dependence.

One of the focal points for this effort is PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick, which has had a program devoted to infants struggling with withdrawal. It’s also a place that’s developing techniques that could be replicated elsewhere.

Program director Dr. Sharon Burke said the hospital has been treating babies going through withdrawal, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), for many years. However, a rising number of cases prompted Children’s Specialized to launch a program dedicated to these newborns five years ago. Since then, the numbers and the severity of the cases have continued to grow.

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