Cuddling is a Cost Effective, Drug-Free Solution For Treating Opioid Dependent Babies

A program at the Boston Medical Center emphasizes human touch as the solution to babies born with opioid addiction.

The Boston Medical Center implemented an objectively cute method of dealing with the troubling reality of babies born with an opioid dependence: cuddling.

The Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and infant stress — appropriately dubbed CALM — was designed to offer a drug-free solution for treating babies suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome. Also known as NAS, these infants may exhibit traditional symptoms of withdrawal such as “twitching, tremors, trouble feeding, and difficulty sleeping.”

The CALM program has about 100 volunteers, who spend two hours cradling, singing and generally soothing NAS babies showing signs of withdrawal. This approach aims to empower parents as the primary treatment for the baby, and supplement moments when parents are unavailable to give such care themselves.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Many pregnant mothers are “urged to stay on methadone to minimize the risk of miscarriage,” STAT reports, and previously, many NAS babies would also receive methadone as treatment. However, the CALM program — and similar programs around the country — prioritizes a non-pharmacologic approach, emphasizing human contact in lieu of medication. And it works: Elisa Wachman, a pediatrician who runs the CALM program at Boston Medical Center, told STAT, “We’ve been able to drop our medication treatment rates by about 40 percent.”

The appeal of CALM also lies in its cost-effectiveness: according to STAT, it costs Boston Medical Center around $2,100 a day per NAS baby. The program, which would ideally shorten the stay for each baby, could “translate to about $2 million in annual savings.”

Read more on STAT.