When you think about treatment for substance abuse problems and withdrawal, you probably imagine detox, a stint in a rehab facility, and plenty of therapy and counseling. There are plenty of alternative methods out there, too, like meditation and yoga. But here’s one you might not have heard before – cuddling. This treatment isn’t for adults, however (although who knows, it might do some good by improving your mood), but for babies who are born with something called neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of conditions that occur as a result of the mother taking drugs – opioids in particular – during pregnancy. There are medications that these babies can be given, but some hospitals as using a new method of soothing the withdrawal symptoms, providing human contact and comfort.

At Boston Medical Center, home to the Grayken Center for Addiction, doctors make the parents the primary caretakers. Babies may still be treated with methadone if needed, but the first line of treatment is cuddling. Staff make sure that the rooms are dim and comfortable, and the babies spend a lot of time being held. After a week of this cuddling therapy, only 30 percent of the infants require methadone as a result of continued symptoms of withdrawal. BMC also provides treatment for mothers with substance use disorders, via a program called RESPECT. This is an acronym for Recovery, Empowerment, Social Services, Prenatal care, Education, Community and Treatment. The program provides concurrent obstetric care and substance use disorder treatment for pregnant women and their newborns. The team includes doctors from a variety of disciplines, including obstetricians who are qualified to administer buprenorphine, which is another medication that reduces symptoms of withdrawal, a psychiatrist specializing in mood disorders in pregnancy, an addiction psychiatry nurse practitioner, and a licensed independent clinical social worker.


Another facility that practices this multi-disciplinary approach to newborn opioid dependence is called Lily’s Place, located in Huntington, West Virginia. It was established in 2014, but made national news when First Lady Melania Trump visited in September 2017. Lily’s Place is a nonprofit infant recovery center, specializing in neonatal abstinence syndrome, that also provides services to parents and families. There are 16 nurseries in the facility, where babies are kept in dimly lit rooms for their comfort. Lily’s Place also practices the cuddling technique, teaching parents to swaddle babies tightly in blankets and maneuvering them into a soothing position, swaying back and forth while holding them instead of bouncing up and down. While some parents are allowed into the facility as part of their baby’s treatment, some of the infants there have been taken away from their mothers because they’ve been deemed unfit. Although Lily’s Place does not facilitate adoptions, many babies receive treatment there before being placed into foster care.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.