Opioid Use and Child Development
Background and Literature
The use of opioids during pregnancy has been well documented. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 women of reproductive age filled an opioid prescription each year between 2008 and 2012 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Reporting on self-reported data, the author(s) adds that about 7 percent of women reported using prescription opioid pain relievers during pregnancy, and of those women, one in five reported misuse of prescription opioids (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020).
The resultant effect of the opioid use has been extensively studied. In Welton, Blakelock, Madden and Kelly (2019), the authors, through a systematic review, summarized information on the effects of opioid use in pregnancy, on subsequent pediatric development and behavior. Their findings indicated that the use of opioids during pregnancy can lead to developmental delays, when the same demographic are compared with their peers, yet, they remain within population norms of cognition, fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination, executive function, and attention and impulsivity levels, which is to imply there is no effect on these areas. In another study, Larson et al. (2019) summarized an expert panel discussion by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on the impact of perinatal opioid exposure and its impact on child development. According to the authors, there is significant evidence in literature suggesting an association between neonates exposed to opioids in utero and long-term adverse neurocognitive, behavioral and development outcomes. The authors add that the adverse outcomes are sequalae and may not be apparent during the neonatal period, but eventually become salient as the children develop and reach preschool and school age period.
Therefore, this significant topic warrants research, especially when considering divergent opinions even in the two research articles reviewed herein. Furthermore, factoring in the statistical information herein, such as the widespread use of opioids during pregnancy, it is an important research problem in social context, where more in-depth information can lead policy and other forms of solutions, such as screening of high risk pregnant women in health care facilities.
The topic of opioid use and child development is relevant to study due to the social implications. Romanowicz et al. (2019), writes that the opioid use crisis in the United States presents policy, social, community health and health, and individual outcomes. This is an important research problem with respect to social work because one of the tenets of social work is ensuring that the values of service, dignity and worth of a person are upheld. Furthermore, the author writes that enhancing human wellbeing and alleviating psychiatric symptoms is critical. The use of opioids, among pregnant women undoubtedly, has a negative impact on fetus and child development in subsequent years as evidenced in the preceding literature. As such, exploring this issue can help to shed more light on it, and present possible solutions that can enhance positive health outcomes, which is essential in the field of health care.
Building on the preceding literature, the question that will be analyzed herein is:
- What is the effect of opioid use among pregnant women on fetuses and early childhood development?
The independent variable herein is opioid use, while the dependent variable is the early childhood development outcomes, from the fetus age.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 4). Opioid use during pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/opioids/index.html
Larson, J. J., Graham, D. L., Singer, L. T., Beckwith, A. M., Terplan, M., Davis, J. M., . . . Bada, H. S. (2019). Cognitive and behavioral impact on children exposed to opioids during pregnancy. Pediatrics, 144(2), e20190514. doi:10.1542/peds.2019-0514
Romanowicz, M., Voort, J. L., Shekunov, J., Oesterle, T. S., Thusius, N. J., Rummans, T. A., . . . Schak, K. M. (2019). The effects of parental opioid use on the parent–child relationship and children’s developmental and behavioral outcomes: a systematic review of published reports. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 13(5), e266. doi:10.1186/s13034-019-0266-3
Welton, S., Blakelock, B., Madden, S., & Kelly, L. (2019). Effects of opioid use in pregnancy on pediatric development and behaviour in children older than age 2. Canadian Family Physician, 65(12), 544-551.