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NIDA. (2017, May 4). Study shows buprenorphine more effective than morphine for treatment of opioid withdrawal in newborns. Retrieved from

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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:

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.

For information about the effects of substances while pregnant or breastfeeding, go to: