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Alaska Regional Hospital
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The NEST Program

What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome?

baby and mother

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs when a pregnant woman takes opiate or narcotic drugs such as heroin, codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone, or buprenorphine. Alcohol, marijuana and nicotine used during pregnancy can also cause problems for the baby. The drugs pass through the placenta that connects the baby to its mother in the womb and the unborn baby becomes addicted along with the mother. When the newborn is no longer exposed to these drugs after birth, withdrawal symptoms may include tremors, high pitched crying, sleep problems, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and convulsions.

Neonatal Abstinence Program

The Neonatal Abstinence Evaluation Support & Treatment (NEST) Program at Alaska Regional Hospital is the only one of its kind in Alaska for treating Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Our program is committed to helping families affected by substance abuse recover in an open and non-shaming environment where respect, honesty, and diversity are highly valued.

Our high nurse-to-patient ratio and staff expertise means each baby receives safe, medically controlled detoxification and withdrawal management in an environment that simulates a home nursery with low lighting and reduced sound. Each private space also includes sleeping accommodations for one parent. Medical management of a baby’s withdrawal symptoms is followed by a dedicated team of physicians and nurse practitioners who are trained and board certified in neonatology. Supportive treatment, counseling, and family support are also cornerstones of NAS management.

All hospitals are required by law to report to the Alaska Office of Children’s Services (OCS) a positive drug screen on any mother or child. OCS involvement and actions are beyond the control of our program, though our substance recovery social workers are a primary source of assistance as families work through the complexities of OCS involvement.