Addressing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Amidst Canadian Opioid Crisis

An In-Depth Look at Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Amidst the Canadian Opioid Crisis

For quite a while now, the opioid crisis has been wreaking havoc not just globally, but right here on Canadian soil. What’s rather troubling is the broad, often life-altering damage it has inflicted on the most vulnerable amongst us, including babies.

In a recent article featured by the Anishinabek News, the impact of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, a direct result of opioids, is investigated and the robust efforts to address it are highlighted.

Understanding the Opioid Crisis

Over the past years, opioids, a class of powerful, addictive drugs used primarily as pain relievers, have become a significant health concern in Canada. The consequences of opioid misuse range from dependency and overdoses to the alarming rise in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome:

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome refers to a group of conditions that can occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive opiate drugs while in the mother’s womb. The result? A child suffers withdrawal symptoms after birth, a heartrending reality that is increasingly prevalent.

The Consequences:

  • According to the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the Ontario Drug Policy Network, Ontario’s rate of newborns diagnosed with NAS tripled from 2003 to 2014.
  • While most babies with NAS recover, the treatment can take weeks or even months and places significant pressure on hospitals and healthcare providers.
  • The ripple effect of the opioid crisis has also exacerbated homelessness and crime rates in the country.

Efforts to Combat Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and the Opioid Crisis

With the opioid crisis escalating, admirable efforts are being made to mitigate some of the ensuing damages. A shining example is the Anishinabek Nation 7th Generation Charity, which is currently coordinating the Opioid Strategy. Among other things, this initiative is developing guidelines to prevent and manage NAS in First Nations communities.

The Opioid Strategy:

  • The strategy focuses on four main areas: Prevention, Harm Reduction, Treatment/ Clinical practice, and Enforcement.
  • This initiative is a significant step towards resolving issues precipitated by opioids, including NAS.
  • Included in this strategy is a proposed opioid class action to hold manufacturers accountable for the opioid crisis, a lawsuit that could have significant implications for those impacted by opioid addiction.
  • These efforts encompass the use of life-saving practices and medication like naloxone, aimed at immediately reversing the effect of an opioid overdose.

Looking Towards the Future

While addressing the opioid crisis is a daunting task, these initiatives represent a beacon of hope and a testament to solidarity in the face of adversity. With a continued, concerted effort, we could reshape the narrative around opioid addiction and bring back health and stability to affected communities.


In conclusion, the opioid crisis poses a grave threat to Canadian public and individual health, affecting the most vulnerable among us, including newborns. However, concerted measures like the integration of prevention, harm reduction, targeted clinical practices, and law enforcement into the Opioid Strategy can help stack the odds in favor of communities grappling against these challenges.

We must stay informed, be proactive and maintain an unyielding commitment to mitigate and, ultimately, overcome the opioid crisis.

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