Opioids. Babies. Parents. NOWS the TimeApr 04, 2023
I continue to learn more and more about the worldwide opioid crisis, and I want to take a moment to share some with you, too.
I'm just back from Tucson, Az, where I attended and spoke at the world's first conference dedicated to raising awareness and improving the treatment of NOWS, neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome.
The conference, NOWS the Time, among many things, took time to highlight the current treatments used to improve outcomes. We also took an insightful look into the past (near and far) to better understand the issue.
NOWS, or Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome, is a subset of NAS, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. NOWS is specific to Opioids, obviously, and there is some nuance that we could parse out here, and I will do that at some point.
Perhaps you're already familiar with this issue? If not, as you begin to wrap your mind around this crisis, I anticipate that, like me, you will see we need all hands on deck to address the full spectrum of this crisis.
There was a time during the conference that it felt like we had made progress, but suddenly, it became clear that we had taken one step forward to only now have taken two steps back.
Here are a few statistics to give you perspective:
- In the US, opioid use during pregnancy has increased by 333% over 15 years (1999 to 2014) and continues to rise. (NIH)
- More recent data: From 2010-2017, the number of babies born with NAS rose by 82%. With an increase across most states and all demographics. (CDC)
- We are at the point where a baby is born with NAS every 24 minutes. (CDC)
And the numbers are growing every day.
Sometimes it feels like the opioid crisis is happening far away in other parts of the country or world. Yet, I'm wrong. It's happening right in front of my face.
It's devastating for so many in my community and yours.
Other than just shouting out that we need to do more - which sounds hollow - I wondered - what can I do? I am only one person, after all.
Bianca and I started our work on this in October of 2021. At the time, we thought it would be fast, and we would have things rolled out lick-itty-split… then we met bureaucracy. Good thing we have perseverance in our blood!
Here's the thing, I've met several people in the last 18 months who also felt helpless in the face of this crisis. They, too, were searching for how they could contribute and make a difference. Some said that even though they were doing what they could, they still felt as if their input/assistance was doing little to ease the issues driving the crisis.
I understand that feeling.
YET, one thing this conference illuminated for me is the need for multiple touchpoints along the opioid timeline.
Suppose we pull back and look at the timeline, the trajectory of those most impacted by how this Opioid epidemic is ravaging families, communities, and our future. In that case, hopefully, we can see that our contribution is part of a broader movement to heal and address the issues fueled and created by this epidemic. When we all work together across the community, across the systems where we encounter people impacted by this complex issue - we can make a true impact.
What can you do?
Learn, talk, and share about the issue. Then find your spot on the timeline and add yourself, your knowledge, and your voice to change things.
I brought my teenager to the conference, which was a new experience, but I won't sidetrack here. One of her high school classes is deep diving into the opioid crisis and the factors that play into the overall picture. She used the conference experience to create a TED talk for her class. Teaching and including the next generation is something that you might do.
What am I doing?
Babywearing education - duh.
I'm oversimplifying here, but you get the idea.
- Babywearing helps to ease the suffering of the babies in the throes of NOWS.
- Babywearing helps relieve the suffering of those who care for these little ones. ALL those who care for them.
This is where you and I come into the timeline. We might only be a tiny blip in the life timeline of those impacted by this crisis. However, just because it's a tiny blip doesn't mean it doesn't have an enormous impact. Never discount that, please.
This crisis needs all hands on deck. And for those hands to be loving hands - not judgmental or holding biased beliefs about those caught up in this epidemic. It calls for us to recognize and pay attention to what is happening in our communities, schools, and legislation. This crisis begs us not to put this issue into the box of "this happens to someone else" or "only criminals use drugs." For the large majority of pregnant people, it's their Dr. who prescribes the first opioids.
If you're not worried, I'm sorry to tell you - you should be. You know someone impacted by this crisis - even if you aren't aware that you do. Opioids don't care who you are, what you look like, or even how much money you have - and those who make/sell/push/hide it in other drugs don't care about those impacted by it either.
NOWS the Time for us to do what we can - whatever that looks like. Time to talk to your kids, family members, the leaders at your school, church, hospital, and government representatives - simply put, everyone.
If you are in the 'world of Babywearing' (which is likely since you are here on the site), then you can help anyone caring for a NOWS infant.
ANYONE can implement Babywearing into their infant care toolbox.
If you have questions, are looking for a way to help, or need a program for implementation, let me know. I don't have all the answers, of course, but I have developed and implemented a babywearing program delivered at a critical point of contact. We don't have time to wait.
NOWS the Time to make a difference.
Here I am, after the conference. with Lela. Amazing person and researcher!
And also with Jocelyn, Lisa, and Mo. Each person instrumental in getting us to this point of a completed pilot program, and the success of the NOWS the Time Conference.