In the United States, the opioid epidemic is rising at an alarming rate and is affecting countless lives, including the lives of newborn infants. In a country that continues to be overtaken by prenatal drug use, volunteer-based cuddling programs need to be readily available in any hospital that contains a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Human contact via general cuddling is vital to the recovery of a born-addicted infant and the way to ensure such contact is provided is through a volunteer-based cuddling program. This project consists of literature reviews concerning former and current treatments for born-addicted infants, a survey of U.S. NICUs to determine treatment methods that are currently being applied, and the development of a volunteer-based cuddling program implementation plan that NICUs without cuddling programs can adopt. There is limited available research on the topic of utilizing nonpharmacologic methods for the treatment of withdrawal symptoms associated with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The primary goal for this project was to shift the focus away from pharmacologic treatments and more towards alternative approaches that can be used to ease neonatal withdrawal symptoms primarily via human cuddling that is delivered by way of a volunteer-based cuddling program. Data from studies in the reviewed literature suggest that nonpharmacologic mechanisms should be utilized as first-line treatments for addicted infants. Conversely, research also has determined that the most efficient treatment method was human contact via cuddling. Recommendations were made for developing and integrating a volunteer-based cuddling program into hospitals.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 5-4-2020


Dr. Teri Nowak

Mentor Professional Affiliation


Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars


Biological Sciences