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UT Medical Center Program Encourages Drug Addicted Mothers to Detox

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Doctors from the UT Medical Center offered some promising statistics amid an ongoing opioid crisis.

Births of drug dependent babies in East Tennessee have decreased 12 percent. In Knoxville alone, those births have decreased 18 percent.

Dr. Robert Elder said a big part of that is the way doctors are treating drug addicted pregnant women at UT Medical Center: through detox.

On Wednesday, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists approved detox as an acceptable treatment for those patients who do not have access to medical assisted therapy.

A program at UT Medical Center offers guidance for women who are addicted and expecting. The women are offered an option of whether they want to maintain a drug habit with methadone, or detox.

In the past, doctors used methadone to treat drug addicted mothers. This method would get mothers off of the street drugs they were using, and were able to maintain a dosage of methadone while in treatment.

Research on the detox treatment program was pioneered by Dr. Craig Towers. For a long time, there was a stigma against pregnant women undergoing detox. The research done by Dr. Towers proves that detox is not harmful to the baby.

"It's easy to think of them as somebody that's just out there using drugs and they don't care about life but you would not believe the histories that these women have," said Dr. Towers. "These women are using opiates to just feel normal, not to get high."

According to Dr. Towers, about 80 percent of the mothers who enter the program at UT Medical Center want to detox.

Dr. Towers said the fact that detox is not harmful will open the doors to more research. Doctors plan to take a look at the long-term outcome of kids who underwent the treatment in the womb.

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