The opioid epidemic is a public health emergency in the United States. Widespread opioid misuse has impacted health care workers throughout the country, and ASHA members are no exception.

The latest forum in Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups is titled “Cleft Lip and Palate and the Opioid Crisis.” Read more about the forum, presented by Special Interest Group 5, Craniofacial and Velopharyngeal Disorders, below!

Care for Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome

The first two articles in the forum look at how speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can better treat patients with Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS). NOWS results directly from in-utero opioid exposure on the developing fetal brain.

The forum opens with a tutorial from Proctor-Williams and Louw on treating infants with NOWS, many of whom present with cleft lip or palate. The authors provide guidelines for intervention with this population, including how a history of prenatal opioid exposure can add further complications to typical cleft treatment.

Benninger and colleagues then look at infants with NOWS at 1 year, looking at speech, hearing, and neurodevelopmental outcomes. Researchers found lower cognitive, language, and motor skills in this population, emphasizing the importance of early speech-language intervention for these children.

Patients and Opioid Abuse Across the Lifespan

Patients with cleft or craniofacial anomalies can require a variety of surgeries—beginning in infancy and in some cases continuing through adulthood. An article from Randall and colleagues shares evidence-based strategies to help providers create comprehensive patient-centered pain management plans and safely minimize opioid prescriptions.

In the final article of the forum, Ruscello and Armeni present a case study of a patient with significant soft palate damage due to opioid abuse. The authors describe the creation of a speech appliance that helped improve the patient’s speech and swallowing.

The Role of ASHA Members in the Opioid Crisis

You can find more on how the opioid epidemic intersects with the work of audiologists, school-based SLPs, and other ASHA members in a recent series of the ASHA Voices podcast. In addition to this forum, check out ASHAWire for more articles about working with patients affected by opioid misuse.

We’d like to thank SIG 5 Editor Brenda Louw for her efforts in putting this forum together for Perspectives. You can check out the full forum or read the individual articles below. We hope that these articles can help SLPs—particularly those who specialize in cleft lip and/or palate, or craniofacial disorders—treat patients affected by the opioid epidemic with knowledge, care, and respect.

Explore the Forum

Benninger, K. L., Richard, C., Conroy, S., Newton, J., Taylor, H. G., Sayed, A., Pietruszewski, L., Nelin, M. A., Batterson, N., & Maitre, N. L. (2022). One-year neurodevelopmental outcomes after neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome: A prospective cohort study. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 7(4), 1019–1032.

Proctor-Williams, K., & Louw, B. (2022). When cleft lip and/or palate and antenatal opioid exposure intersect: A tutorial. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 7(4), 1006–1018.

Randall, E., Tran, K., Cordes, E. J., Borschel, G. H., & Tholpady, S. S. (2022). The use of opioids in the surgical care of patients with orofacial clefts: A commentary and guide to management. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 7(4), 1033–1040.

Ruscello, D. M., & Armeni, M. (2022). Treating velopharyngeal insufficiency in a case of substance abuse: A new client population. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 7(4), 1041–1047.