An article published on The American Journal on Addictions stated that pregnant women who were addicted to opioids were strongly interested in antagonist treatment, especially one that involves the use of naltrexone to combat their substance abuse disorder.
Antagonist drugs such as naltrexone work by attaching to opioid receptors in the brain and blocking the opioids' full effects. It prevents the opioid-addicted individual from getting high while effectively curbing physiological cravings to drugs, even alcohol.
The finding, which was published online on the Wiley Online Library website, said majority of the 112 pregnant women enrolled in addiction rehabilitation program surveyed expressed strong interest in using an oral or long-acting injectable formulation of an antagonist drug.
The women particularly preferred antagonist drugs that "that would stop heroin and/or alcohol use, leave them "clear-headed," and without neonatal withdrawal." They also showed "clear interest" in finding more about naltrexone."
Dr. Hendree E. Jones, author of the study, said the findings will pave the way for "the acceptance of a clinical trial of antagonist treatment in this population."
Naltrexone, along with other antagonist drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine, is classified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a Category C drug for pregnancy use. Category C drugs were found to have affected fetal development in animal reproduction studies, according to a presentationTreatment of Pregnant and Parenting Women: The Use of Medication-assisted Treatment, also by Jones. They can be used for pregnancy as long as the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
"There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in humans, but potential benefits may warrant use of the drug in pregnant women despite potential risks," the presentation added.
The medical community has found that a low dose form of naltrexone can be used to treat autoimmune diseases, cancer and nervous system disorders.
Dr. Phil Boyle, a fertility specialist in Galway, Ireland, told the LDN website that low dose naltrexone (LDN) can be safely used by pregnant women with such indications. Boyle added that some of his patients who were on low-dose naltrexone had reduced risks of miscarriage.
He also said that a US-based doctor who developed his fertility treatments, Dr. Thomas Hilgers, had even prescribed high doses of naltrexone-up to 100mg-on pregnant and breastfeeding women since 1985 without any negative consequences.
"I have been prescribing LDN regularly during pregnancy for several years and the results have been excellent. Clinical experience has proven to me that it is safe," Boyle said.
"We've had over 50 babies whose moms have been on LDN throughout their pregnancies and those babies, if anything, have been even healthier than those whose moms haven't been on low dose naltrexone."
Rare studies exist on the contraindications of naltrexone for pregnant women, but those published online reported on positive results.
For example, 2002 case study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information stated that pregnant women addicted to opioids can rely on naltrexone implants for dependency treatment and prevention without putting their lives and that of their unborn babies at risk, according to an independent report on Gant Daily. Pregnant women respond better to the drug's implant formulation than its oral formulation, according to the study.
One company that uses naltrexone implants for its addiction rehabilitation program is BioCorRx, Inc. (OTCQX: BICX). BioCorRx, Inc.'s biodegradable, long-acting implant is inserted under the patient's skin through an outpatient procedure and gradually releases the drug into the patient's system for several months. The company combines the use of the implant with psycho-social coaching to effectively treat patients' substance abuse disorders.
BioCorRx, Inc. notes on its website, however, that pregnant women who are interested in having the implant procedure done should get medical clearance from their doctors prior to enrolling in any type of Naltrexone treatment.
BioCorRx, Inc. is headquartered in Nevada but has many licensing and distribution agreements across the United States through which it offers access to its naltrexone implant under its Start Fresh rehabilitation program.
Pregnant women with opioid use disorder were on the rise, NCADD said. The same is true for clinics treating them, The Wall Street Journal noted.
However, all hope is not lost as more and more clinics like the ones offering the Start Fresh Program from BioCorRx, Inc.look into the possibility of treating these women safely.
The Maternal Addiction and Recovery Center at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia reported that undergoing medical-assisted treatment combined with group and individual therapy sessions have proven well for pregnant patients and their babies, according an article on the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) website. The center explains that fewer premature babies have been born to opioid-addicted mothers and one-fourth of the babies do not require treatment for withdrawal, which is medically known as neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Babies born with the said syndrome had to be hospitalized for a long period, and experience seizures, breathing problems, dehydration. They are also irritable and are difficult to feed.
A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association said that every hour, a baby is born with withdrawal. Annually, 13, 500 babies with withdrawal symptoms are born in the country.
Apart from dependency treatment and prevention, laws criminalizing drug use among pregnant moms may one day prevent the rise from touching opioids. In April, The Tennessean reported that the state will be enacting a law that will incarcerate pregnant women who use drugs. The bill will take effect on July 1, making Tennessee the first state to jail pregnant addicts.
"The intent of this bill is to give law enforcement and district attorneys a tool to address illicit drug use among pregnant women through treatment programs," Tennessee governor Bill Haslam said.
4.4 percent of pregnant women have reported using opioids illegally within a month, the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health stated.