Plausible Link Between Epidural Drug and Fentanyl Addiction Published in Medical Hypotheses

Thursday, August 16, 2018 Drug News
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Data indicates a correlation between the exposure of the fetus to labor medications and the later addiction to the same category of drug

EAST SANDWHICH, Mass., Aug. 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- With fentanyl and fentanyl analogues primarily responsible for the jump in opioid deaths, researchers

from the Healthy Children Project, Inc., a non-profit research and educational institution dedicated to improving child health outcomes, set out to investigate whether there might be a possible link between the exposure of the fetus to fentanyl – the most commonly prescribed opioid included in epidurals – during labor and later addiction of young adults to the opioid. The results, which show a plausible connection, have been published in Medical Hypotheses.

In the paper, Healthy Children Project faculty members Dr. Karin Cadwell and Dr. Kajsa Brimdyr hypothesize that, because of robust data indicating a convincing correlation between the exposure of the fetus to other labor medications (i.e., morphine, pethidine hydrochloride, barbiturates, phenobarbitone, meperidine, and secobarbital) and the later addiction to the same category of drug, the effect would be true of the opioid fentanyl as well.

The scientific rationale for the hypothesis is based on research demonstrating that later taste preferences are modulated by fetal exposure to labor medications and infant taste experiences of amniotic fluid by a process akin to imprinting where a specific memory becoming engraved during the hours before birth, leading to behavioral effects in adult life.

"If prior research on fetal exposure to other opioid obstetric drugs can be demonstrated to apply to fentanyl, it is reasonable to believe that current obstetrical practice continues to 'imprint' the next generation with a 'taste' for fentanyl, a first step to the later possible abuse of fentanyl (as well as heroin)," said Drs. Cadwell and Brimdyr. "Although addiction itself is not imprinted, the 'propensity to use or misuse opioids' is."

First synthesized in Belgium in 1960, fentanyl was approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1968 and became increasingly popular as a labor anesthetic in the United States in the 1980s.

The full text of the article can be found here.

About Healthy Children Project, Inc.

Healthy Children Project was established in 1993 as a non-profit research and educational institution dedicated to improving child health outcomes in partnership with public, private and non-profit agencies. Through its Center for Breastfeeding, Healthy Children Project is the largest national provider of lactation management education for health care providers. More than 4,000 health providers, advocates, and facilitators are educated annually through over 90 offerings across the United States, including five-day courses, certificate courses, workshops, seminars, self-study modules and national and international conferences. Educational offerings are held at hospitals, Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Programs, health department training facilities, colleges, and other locations. For more information, visit

Media Contact: Kristin Stewart

Phone: 508.888.8044


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SOURCE Healthy Children Project, Inc., Center for Breastfeeding

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