Last March, University of Tennessee of Journalism and Electronic Media students partnered with Metro Drug Coalition to create a documentary revolving around Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Last year alone, nearly 1,000 babies in Tennessee were born with NAS. Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy & Addiction in East Tennessee examines the terrible phenomenon plaguing our state. Through interviews with medical experts, addiction specialists, policy makers, and, most importantly, the mothers whom have struggled with these issues, this half-hour film presents a comprehensive view of the problem and documents the struggles addicted mothers face in reaching recovery.

After almost a year of tireless efforts, the documentary will come to life as it is screened live for the general public this week at the Knox County Health Department on Thursday, March 10 at 6:30 PM. Following the live screening, there will be a panel discussion held at 7:30 PM. For those who cannot make the event, WBIR Channel 10, will be live streaming the event and panel discussion on and live on WBIR-Channel 10 beginning at 7 PM.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, commonly referred to as NAS, occurs when a woman takes an opiate or a narcotic drug while pregnant, the substances pass through the placenta and results in drug dependency for the baby. NAS has grown substantially over the last 12 years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2000-2012, an estimated 21,732 infants were affected by NAS. Based on this statistic, every 25 minutes, a baby is born dependent on drugs. NIDA also showed that newborns stayed on average 16.9 days in the hospital. This is a dramatic increase in comparison to the 2.1 average stay of a healthy newborn.

In addition to the rising statistics of NAS, lengthy hospital stays and the emotional toll for families affected, NAS also takes a toll financially on hospitals and families. The average cost for a newborn’s stay with NAS is $66,700. This is extremely high compared to the lesser cost of $3,500 for babies without NAS.

Although NAS is on the rise and reaching epidemic proportions, it is 100% preventable. If you, someone you know is pregnant, please visit to find out information on the dangers and how to prevent NAS.

Check out the sneak peak of Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy & Addiction in East Tennessee.


“Reaching Recovery” was produced by Land Grant Films at The University of Tennessee in collaboration with Metro Drug Coalition. Directed by journalism professor Nick Geidner, edited by journalism graduate student Clinton Elmore, and produced by undergraduate students Abby Bower and Hannah Marley and recent UT alum Nichole Stevens.