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Study shows buprenorphine more effective than morphine for treatment of opioid withdrawal in newborns

Science Spotlight

May 04, 2017

A newly published study showed that buprenorphine is more effective than morphine in treating withdrawal symptoms in newborns prenatally exposed to opioids, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Unlike morphine, buprenorphine did not affect breathing rates, although medications were otherwise comparable for safety. The research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. 

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Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing sublingual buprenorphine to oral morphine in 63 infants with NAS. Infants had shorter treatment durations and hospital stays when given buprenorphine versus morphine. Breathing rates were reduced in the morphine compared to buprenorphine group, although weight gain, liver function and heart rate tests showed similar safety profiles for the two medications.

For a copy of the paper — “Buprenorphine for the treatment of the neonatal abstinence syndrome”— published in the New England Journal of Medicine, go to: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1614835#t=articleTop.

This finding follows a related study in 2010 that identified buprenorphine as a preferred treatment for opioid addicted mothers when compared to methadone. Buprenorphine resulted in similar maternal and fetal outcomes, yet had lower severity of NAS symptoms. /news-events/news-releases/2010/12/buprenorphine-treatment-in-pregnancy-less-distress-to-babies

For information about the effects of substances while pregnant or breastfeeding, go to: www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/substance-use-in-women/substance-use-while-pregnant-breastfeeding.

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About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2017, May 4). Study shows buprenorphine more effective than morphine for treatment of opioid withdrawal in newborns. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2017/05/study-shows-buprenorphine-more-effective-than-morphine-treatment-opioid-withdrawal-in-newborns

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