Telemedicine can help pregnant women manage opioid addiction

According to a report from the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of pregnant women addicted to opioids tripled in at least 28 states between 1999 and 2014. — AFP pic
According to a report from the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of pregnant women addicted to opioids tripled in at least 28 states between 1999 and 2014. — AFP pic

NEW YORK, Feb 14 — A recent research study in the United States has highlighted the benefits of telemedicine for pregnant women suffering from opiate drug addiction.

The study showed that teleconsultations enabled nearly 100 patients take advantage of medical monitoring, which showed similar results to meeting face to face in the consulting room.

Telemedicine has proved useful in regions that are underserved by medical resources in France and the United States. Now a study published in Jama Network Open has shown that this type of consultation, which is carried out remotely via computer, can encourage women to tackle the problem of opioid addiction, a major health crisis in the United States. The subject is often taboo for those affected, particularly if they are pregnant.

According to a report from the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of pregnant women addicted to opioids tripled in at least 28 states between 1999 and 2014.

This is a very worrying development, considering that the use of opioids during pregnancy can have many harmful effects on both pregnant women and their unborn children: poor fetal growth, premature birth, birth defects, and neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when an infant has been exposed to addictive drugs in utero.

Starting from the fact that less than 20 per cent of American women affected by opioid addiction receive medical treatment, study leader Professor Constance Guille of the Medical University of South Carolina and her team set out to evaluate different ways to help women suffering from disorders linked to opioid use during and after pregnancy.

No significant difference between the two methods of consultation

Treatment of opiate-related disorders usually involves a combination of medication and counseling which can in part be delivered via telemedicine. The study involved 98 opioid-dependent expectant mothers and four obstetrician practices to see if teleconsultations could provide the same quality of treatment as conventional visits.

Following an initial obligatory office appointment, the women continued to consult via telemedicine. Prof. Guille and her team found that there was no statistically significant difference in terms of retention in treatment between the mothers who consulted remotely during and after their pregnancy and those who met face to face with their doctors (80.4 per cent versus 92.7 per cent).

“Telemedicine may provide a scalable solution to making lifesaving treatment available to pregnant women to reduce the maternal morbidity and mortality associated with opioid use disorder and improve maternal and child health”, the study concluded.

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