(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) -- Nearly half of the infants in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at the East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville are suffering from opiate withdrawal -- mostly due to prescription painkillers.
Baby Grayson was quaking when he was admitted to the hospital's NICU at just 48 hours old. He was born with a serious drug dependency because his pregnant mother was addicted to painkillers.
Out of the 58 babies in the hospital's NICU, 23 of them are going through withdrawal from prescription pills, including OxyContin, Vicodin and methadone.
"I know people probably think I exaggerate when I say they have this very fearful look in their eyes, well they do," said Carla Saunders, the NICU's head nurse.
Saunders is helping develop a treatment program for these newborns by using a powerful combination of drugs, trial and error, and lots of love and care. It can take weeks, even months, for these tiny bodies to withdrawal from whatever their mothers were hooked on. It costs $53,000 per baby to wean them, and 60 percent of the cases are on Medicaid.
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