Home-based detoxification for neonatal abstinence syndrome reduces length of hospital admission without prolonging treatment

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Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a drug withdrawal syndrome, secondary to in utero chemical exposure and characterised by tremor, irritability and feed intolerance. It often requires prolonged hospital treatment and separation of families. Outpatient therapy may reduce this burden, but current literature is sparse. This review aimed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of our home-based detoxification programme and compare it with standard inpatient care.


Infants requiring treatment for NAS between January 2004 and December 2010 were reviewed. Data on demographics, drug exposure, length of stay and type of therapy were compared between infants selected for home-based therapy and those treated conventionally.


Of the 118 infants who were admitted for treatment of NAS, 38 (32%) were managed at home. Infants receiving home-based detoxification had shorter hospital stays (mean 19 days vs. 39 days), with no increase in total duration of treatment (mean 36 days vs. 41 days), and were more likely to be breastfeeding on discharge from hospital care (45% vs. 22%).


In selected infants, home-based detoxification is associated with reduced hospital stays and increased rates of breastfeeding, without prolonging therapy. Safety of the infants remains paramount, which precludes many from entering such a programme.

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