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01.12.2014 | Review | Ausgabe 1/2014 Open Access

Addiction Science & Clinical Practice 1/2014

Review of the assessment and management of neonatal abstinence syndrome

Addiction Science & Clinical Practice > Ausgabe 1/2014
Sarah Mary Bagley, Elisha M Wachman, Erica Holland, Susan B Brogly
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

SMB and SBB were responsible for the conception and design. SMB and EH performed the literature search. SMB, EMW, and EH reviewed the articles. SMB, EW, EH, and SBB drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) secondary to in-utero opioid exposure is an increasing problem. Variability in assessment and treatment of NAS has been attributed to the lack of high-quality evidence to guide management of exposed neonates. This systematic review examines available evidence for NAS assessment tools, nonpharmacologic interventions, and pharmacologic management of opioid-exposed infants. There is limited data on the inter-observer reliability of NAS assessment tools due to lack of a standardized approach. In addition, most scales were developed prior to the prevalent use of prescribed prenatal concomitant medications, which can complicate NAS assessment. Nonpharmacologic interventions, particularly breastfeeding, may decrease NAS severity. Opioid medications such as morphine or methadone are recommended as first-line therapy, with phenobarbital or clonidine as second-line adjunctive therapy. Further research is needed to determine best practices for assessment, nonpharmacologic intervention, and pharmacologic management of infants with NAS in order to improve outcomes.
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