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January 6, 2015

Tennessee offering more resources to pregnant women

Tennessee’s prescription drug abuse epidemic is harming a generation of unborn and newborn infants across the state. In 2012, more than 42 percent of pregnant women served by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) listed prescription pain medicine as their primary substance of abuse. That is more than double the national average of approximately 18 percent. 

“We want pregnant women struggling with addiction to know that they have access to dedicated community agencies that offer treatment for expectant mothers,” said E. Douglas Varney, TDMHSAS Commissioner.


The trauma inflicted when a pregnant woman uses prescription drugs during her pregnancy can lead to many medical problems for both mother and baby. Complications can include infections passed to the fetus from the use of contaminated needles, high blood pressure during pregnancy, premature labor and delivery, and intrauterine death.

TN_NAS_Cases_1999to2010Due to the high rate of drug use by pregnant women in Tennessee, many newborns are born dependent on drugs and suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Babies born with this condition go into withdrawals, stay in the hospital longer, and can have serious lifelong medical issues. Over the last decade, the rate of babies born with NAS has increased tenfold according to data maintained by the Tennessee Department of Health. 

“The earlier a pregnant woman seeks help, the better the outcome for mother and baby,” said Marie Williams, TDMHSAS Deputy Commissioner. “Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people recover.” 


817 NAS babies born in Tennessee, January – October 2014

731 NAS babies born in Tennessee, January – October 2013 

For help in Tennessee, call the 24/7 REDLINE at 1-800-889-9789.

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