Every day across the United States, almost 80 newborn babies are diagnosed as going into drug withdrawal because they are no longer getting the drugs their mothers used while pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
With few standard, evidence-based treatments, most hospitals give the babies medications like morphine – itself an opioid – to ease withdrawal symptoms. The neonatal intensive care team must then wean the baby off that prescribed drug over the course of two to three weeks. The novel treatment being tested at MUSC Children’s Health uses electrical stimulation to induce the baby’s body to produce more of its own opioid-like hormones, better known as endorphins. The idea is that by utilizing these self-produced opioids, the babies can be weaned from the morphine more quickly, reducing potential side effects and decreasing the time the baby must spend in the NICU. 
Dorothea Jenkins, M.D., a professor of pediatrics in the College of Medicine who specializes in treating newborns, and Bashar Badran, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences who specializes in brain stimulation, teamed up, for this trial, with Spark Biomedical, a company that was already developing an over-the-ear neurostimulation device to deliver transcutaneous auricular stimulation (tAN) therapy to adults. 
“This neurostimulation is giving the brain a little bit of a boost of its own endogenous opioids to perhaps reduce the need for exogenous morphine, which has all these dangerous side effects when delivered for prolonged periods of time in this critical neurodevelopmental window,” Badran said.
So far, three babies have received the treatment and were all safely weaned from morphine within 10 days.