Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol At Birth

There is no denying that the use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs during pregnancy will expose both the woman and the developing fetus to the substance. 

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The impact of this can be devastating. This can have deleterious and even a long-term impact on the child that has been exposed to drugs or alcohol. With that being said, in this post, we are going to provide advice for anyone who is pregnant and is battling some form of substance addiction. This information can also be useful if you are worried about a friend or family member who is in this position. 

3ps-consultation Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol At Birth

What impact can drugs and alcohol have when a woman is pregnant?

There are a number of different health problems that can arise if a person is pregnant and they are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If you were to drink during your pregnancy, this could result in a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. This means that your child could experience behavioural and cognitive issues as well as being very low in weight when born. When it comes to the use of drugs, there has been proof that some babies can be born with what is known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which means they effectively have withdrawal symptoms. Babies with this condition are at greater risk of low birth weight, as well as feeding difficulties, respiratory problems, seizures, and even death.

So, can a baby be born with a drug addiction?

Your baby will not be born with a drug or alcohol addiction if you have one. However, this does not mean that you have nothing to worry about. In fact, there is a great concern because babies can be born with drugs in their system. This is because your umbilical cord delivers the drugs to your baby. This can mean that the baby experiences a great amount of pain and there are a number of other health issues that can arise as well. Sadly, the number of babies born with NAS has gotten higher in recent times. This is because of the increase in opioid misuse. 


Why should you be concerned about neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS)?

There is no denying that neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a great concern. If a mother utilise illicit substances, then her baby is going to be at risk of many different health problems. Moreover, a mother who is addicted to any type of substance is going to be less likely to get the prenatal care required, which only heightens the risks for her and her baby too. Not only this, but a lot of women use more than one drug when they are addicted, and this can also lead to complications when it comes to treatment. 


There are a number of different problems that a baby can experience if it has been exposed to substances that it should have been. The most common are birth defects, seizures, premature birth, and poor intrauterine growth.


Of course, there are some drugs that have very specific effects. For example, we have already spoken about how alcohol can have a negative impact on the growth of the fetus. This is because it has a slowing effect on the baby’s growth. This not only relates to during pregnancy but it can refer to after birth too. Specific deformities for the heart, face, and head can be seen with FASDs, as well as intellectual disabilities. 


In terms of marijuana use, this has been linked to babies with lower birthweights. If a mother uses cocaine, this can lead to a lower IQ in her child, as well as learning disabilities, developmental delay, and poor fetal growth. When it comes to amphetamines, this has been linked with premature birth and low birthweight. Finally, we have heroin and other opiates, for example, methadone. These drugs are known to cause considerable withdrawal within a baby. Some babies will experience these symptoms for as long as six months, which can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful for them. Moreover, for mothers addicted to methadone, their babies can suffer seizures.

What drugs cause neonatal abstinence syndrome?

There is no denying that some drugs are more likely to cause this condition than others. However, the truth is that all types and forms of drugs can have a negative effect. Opiates, for example, methadone and heroin, can cause withdrawal in more than 50 per cent of the babies that are exposed prenatally. Cocaine can cause some withdrawal symptoms. However, the main symptoms a baby will encounter with this drug is because of the drug’s toxic effects itself. Withdrawal can also be caused by other drugs such as barbiturates and amphetamines. Alcohol use can also cause withdrawal. And, as mentioned, this is also responsible for birth defects, which include fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. 

recovery-consultation Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol At Birth

All things considered, there is no denying that there are a huge number of risks when it comes to anyone doing drugs or drinking alcohol while they are pregnant. This is a risk that is not worth taking. However, many women feel like they have no choice. Being addicted is not something that you can just switch off overnight. Although you love your unborn child unconditionally, this sometimes is not enough to help a person with an addiction. This is why it is highly recommended that you go to rehab. Not only can going to rehab help you to get the assistance you need so that you can get over your addiction once and for all but withdrawal symptoms will be managed, as will the health of your baby, to ensure the best possible outcome for both of you. 


If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction then please call our free helpline on 0203 955 7700 and an expert will be at hand to offer you a free consultation.


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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.