Health implications and management of women with opioid use disorder

Lisa M. Hachey, Jason A. Gregg, Tamara L. Pavlik-Maus, Jill S. Jones


Opioid use disorder has risen to epidemic proportions in the United States at an alarming rate in the past decade and is considered a leading public health concern. Women have a higher rate of acute and chronic pain conditions and are more likely to be prescribed opioids for pain management. The disproportionate incidence of opioid use, misuse, and progression to heroin and injectable drug use among reproductive age women is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Of particular concern are the unique health risks opioid-dependent women face including immune system alterations, endocrinopathies, diminished fertility, psychosocial isolation, interpersonal violence, and unintentional overdose. Opioid use in pregnancy is associated with negative maternal and neonatal consequences and requires comprehensive, multidisciplinary services for the co-occurring medical, mental health, infectious disease, social stressors, and legal issues. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is linked to a cluster of physiological withdrawal symptoms and considered the primary adverse outcome of opioid exposure in newborns. Maternal medication-assisted treatment with methadone or buprenorphine to decrease the negative effects of neonatal withdrawal is the standard of care for opioid use disorders in pregnancy. The complexity of services required for maternal opioid use disorders requires collaborative and multidisciplinary management strategies to optimize maternal and neonatal outcomes.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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