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Benzodiazepine Use Lengthens Infants' Withdrawal Treatment

Later gestational age also affects treatment duration for neonatal abstinence syndrome

FRIDAY, Oct. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Later gestational age and exposure to benzodiazepines were associated with increased length of treatment for neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) among infants born to women on methadone maintenance therapy, according to a report in the October issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Neil S. Seligman, M.D., of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, and colleagues performed a retrospective cohort study of infants treated for NAS between 2000 and 2006, whose mothers were on methadone maintenance, in order to determine maternal variables that might predict length of treatment for NAS.

In the 204 neonates born to women on methadone maintenance, the average daily dose at delivery was 127 mg with a median length of treatment of 32 days. In univariate analysis, trimester of initial exposure, methadone dose at delivery, antidepressant or cigarette use, race, body mass index and maternal age did not predict treatment length. In multivariable analysis, only gestational age at delivery and concomitant benzodiazepine use predicted length of treatment for NAS.

"Neonates exposed to benzodiazepines and those born at term had a significantly longer length of treatment when compared with unexposed neonates or to those born at less than 37 weeks' gestational age," the authors conclude. "Consideration should be given to avoiding benzodiazepines in methadone maintained mothers when a suitable alternative is available."

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