“After a few years of adhering to this standard, the approach just started to feel impractical and unethical,” Hudson says. “If the suffering of an infant wasn’t enough of a reason to be more proactive, then there’s the list of other long-term problems withdrawal creates that hospitals have to fix.”
Hudson decided to break the cycle. In 2003, she began offering mothers prophylactic treatment for their methadone-exposed infants in order to curb withdrawal symptoms. It proved to be a reliable way to get infants out in front of the damage that withdrawal could cause, and people began to notice the positive results.
Colleagues and representatives from state agencies encouraged Hudson to publish her work so that the benefits from this approach would not remain with one population and one hospital system. She received funding from the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to better illustrate her approach’s efficacy and safety, so she knew she needed data to make her case.
“I couldn’t just go to hospitals and say ‘I’m doing this really cool thing. I think it’s safe and you should do it, too,’” Hudson says. “I was not trained to do research and was a little afraid of that part, but when Clemson got involved that all changed. They have been incredible research partners, and this project wouldn’t be where it is now without them.”
Hudson’s collaboration with researchers from Clemson’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences would help inform the Managing Abstinence in Newborns (MAiN) project that Hudson had been spearheading at Prisma Health since 2012. MAiN is now being expanded to multiple hospitals across South Carolina, but handing it off to doctors and staff unfamiliar with the approach isn’t as simple as sharing the directions for use found on the back of a medicine bottle.
The MAiN team has developed a curriculum for partner hospitals that addresses the immediate needs of infants and then educates, supports and encourages mothers to prioritize their health and the health of their children in the long term. Thanks to research from Clemson faculty, there’s mounting evidence that this approach benefits mom and baby as well as hospital systems and surrounding communities trying to keep the negative effects of an opioid epidemic at bay.