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Hyperphagia in neonates withdrawing from methadone
  1. Alma Martineza,
  2. Beth Kastnerb,
  3. H William Taeuscha
  1. aDepartment of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco, USA, bDepartment of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Dr Alma Martinez University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco General Hospital, Department of Pediatrics - 6E9, 1001 Potrero Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA. Email:amartinez{at}


AIMS To examine whether hyperphagia is a clinically significant problem in infants born to women receiving methadone maintenance.

METHODS The volume of feeds, changes in infant body weight, as well as occurrence of adverse clinical effects in infants withdrawing from methadone were studied during the first month of life. A retrospective chart review was conducted for all infants at San Francisco General between 1992 and 1995, born to women receiving methadone maintenance during their pregnancy. Forty four infants were identified and the data obtained from hospital medical records. The daily oral intake of these infants was recorded during the first month of life. The incidence of hyperphagia (oral intake > 190 cc/kg/day) was measured. Associations between infant oral intake and maternal methadone dose were studied using correlation analysis as well as Anova for repeated measures. Adverse clinical symptoms were also recorded. A subset of premature infants was studied separately.

RESULTS The incidence of hyperphagia was 26% by day 8 and 56% by day 16 of life in the infants. Hyperphagia was not associated with maternal methadone dose or with infant withdrawal scores. Infants who were hyperphagic lost significantly more weight during the first week of life than those who were not. Despite significantly greater intake, the hyperphagic infants did not gain weight more rapidly during the first month of life compared with those infants with lower oral intake. Infants who were hyperphagic (maximum intake of 290 cc/kg/day) did not experience increased vomiting, aspiration, diarrhoea, or abdominal distention.

CONCLUSIONS Hyperphagia is commonly found in infants withdrawing from methadone and can be persistent in a significant number. Hyperphagia was not associated with either increased neonatal weight gain or with adverse gastrointestinal consequences. Hyperphagia may occur in infants withdrawing from methadone who have high metabolic demands due to clinical signs not controlled by opiate treatment.

  • methadone withdrawal
  • hyperphagia
  • metabolism

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