Rising number of local babies born addicted to pills

Rising number of East Tennessee babies born addicted to prescription pills

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"She's the happiest baby in the world, and I wake up every morning so grateful for everything that I have now," Angela Cox said. "She's the happiest baby in the world, and I wake up every morning so grateful for everything that I have now," Angela Cox said.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Prescription pill addiction has become an epidemic, and it's being passed on to East Tennessee newborns in staggering numbers.

Ava Cox is now a six-month-old healthy baby, but her mother's addiction to prescription pills could have caused a much different outcome.

"It breaks my heart. I was choosing a drug over a little life that was inside of me," Angela Cox said.

Cox started abusing prescription pills when she was 20. Consuming an occasional pill eventually turned into a daily habit.

When she tried to stop, she became ill. "You throw up. You sweat. You have cold sweats. It's like the flu," Cox said.

Due to her addiction, Angela wanted Ava to be adopted. However, the agency said she needed to detoxify.

"I got clean about four weeks before she was born," Cox said. "She was born 8 pounds 10 ounces and very healthy. She was not addicted."

Cox decided to keep Ava, and says she has the desire and the will to stay sober. She has remained clean for the past seven months, thanks to help from the non-profit organization Child and Family Tennessee.

Program Manager Teresa Cooper says in the past three years, 60% of the women at the treatment center were battling prescription drug addiction. Now it's risen to 75%.

Cooper says at East Tennessee Children's Hospital, the number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs has tripled in the past 20 years.

"There is an increased number of babies in the NICU with withdrawal symptoms, yes absolutely," she said.

Cooper says the reasons are that the drugs are highly addictive and easy to obtain and consume.

She says an addicted newborn can be irritable, have seizures and even die, and the long term effects are not yet known.

To help get the mothers sober, the long term treatment center offers therapy, housing and child care. The women are also drug tested.

It was treatment that changed Cox's life and may have saved her daughter's. "She's the happiest baby in the world, and I wake up every morning so grateful for everything that I have now," Cox said.

Child and Family Tennessee has several programs. The Great Starts/New Beginning program helps women, mostly mothers and pregnant woman, get clean and back on their feet. They're often referred to the program, which is free to most women.

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