Babies born addicted to opioids experience pain more acutely than babies not exposed to the drugs in utero, and may need more specialized care than what is generally offered, according to a study published in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.

“These babies are responding to pain differently than babies who were not exposed, so maybe we should be paying attention to pain management earlier,” said Oji-Mmuo, assistant professor of pediatrics at Penn State’s College of Medicine.

The study involved 22 babies who were exposed to opioids in the womb, and 15 who had not been exposed. Researchers video-recorded babies’ reaction to pain during heel stick to obtain blood for testing. The heel stick is a common procedure for newborns.

Researchers also applied electrodes to one foot of each baby to measure electrical conductance in the skin. The conductance test indicates when the hormone norephinephrine triggers sweat production, which is released during times of distress.

It is also known that babies exposed to opioids prenatally often exhibit signs of withdrawal, such as inconsolable crying and seizures. Often these symptoms aren’t apparent immediately after birth.

Researchers found that as soon as 24 to 48 hours after birth, infants who were born addicted to opioids had stronger reactions to pain, and higher scores on the stress-detecting skin conductance test.

Oji-Mmuo concluded that “To best take care of these babies, it’s important that we recognize babies who are going through withdrawal very early…. If we have to do a painful procedure like a heel lance, we may have to provide extra comforting measures, both during the procedure and after if they continue to be stressed.”

More than 40 states have filed lawsuits against opioid makers. The suits seek compensation for medical, law enforcement, and treatment-related costs spanning two decades. About 1,600 local governments and Native American tribes have filed similar lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies seeking compensation for similar damages. Those lawsuits have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation in Ohio federal court.

Because of the enormity of the opioid litigation our firm has an “Opioid Litigation Team” consisting of Rhon Jones, Parker Miller, Ryan Kral, Rick Stratton, Will Sutton and Jeff Price. Our firm represents the State of Alabama, the State of Georgia, and numerous local governments, as well as other entities. Individual claims on behalf of victims are also being handled by the team. If you need more information on the opioid litigation contact one of these lawyers at 800-898-2034.

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