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East Tenn. Mom Shares Struggle with Addiction during Pregnancy

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Christy McQueen's son Gunner was born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. It's the term for when babies come in contact with medications or illegal drugs in the womb, and it's been a growing problem in our state.

To put it into perspective locally, East Tennessee Children's Hospital says, for the 45 babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit right now, 20 of them are being treated for drug withdrawal.

Gunner loves playing baseball, running and climbing.

"He is now two years old and he is healthy and happy and rambunctious and you wouldn't even know that he had NAS really when he was born," McQueen said.

Babies born with NAS form a physical dependence on a drug used by their mom during pregnancy.

"Just being very irritable and not sleeping a lot. Crying, his screams they were screechy; they weren't like a normal baby cry," McQueen said.

It's a sad story, and one the nurses at East Tennessee Children's Hospital unfortunately know well.

"Yearly we see between 225 to 250 admissions a year," said NICU nurse Dawn Jeffers.

McQueen says her drug of choice during pregnancy was pain pills. She tried but wasn't able to quit on her own.

"I hurt for him and there was nothing at that point that I could do because the damage was already done. The only thing that I could do was to reach out and get help for myself because I can't change my past but I can change my future for my kids," said McQueen.

That's when she turned to Susannah's House, an intensive outpatient program designed to support mothers and their children.

it was a life changer for McQueen and her son, and still a big part of their lives. Two years later, McQueen now shares her story and mentors other moms.

"Just to let them know that they are not alone and that there are others out there willing to help and that together we can get through this," said McQueen.

There was a big milestone for McQueen recently. About two months ago, on August 26, she celebrated two years without using any opiates.

October is NAS awareness month. If you're in need or know someone that may be, Susannah's House provides services to mothers at no cost including 12-step groups, relapse prevention, individual and group counseling and aftercare.

Their phone number is 865-200-4759. Their website is

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