Tennessee, along with the rest of the nation, is struggling with an opioid addiction epidemic. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one baby with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) was born every 25 minutes in 2012. And the numbers have continued to rise ever since. NAS takes place when newborn babies undergo withdrawal after being exposed to drugs in the womb.

Because every parent wants a healthy and happy child, opioid addiction and other types of drug use tend to make many adoptive parents wary. However, it’s not a deterrent to adopting for most parents. Many birth mothers choose adoption because their current life situation would make parenting a child arduous or even impossible. Oftentimes, a difficult life situation can be traced back to alcohol and drug use. In some cases, opioid addiction starts innocently enough through a doctor’s prescription such as Xanax, Vicodin, Percocet, hydrocodone or tramadol. Then, the issue advances to purchasing these drugs on the street, and in some cases, moving on to more illicit drugs such as heroin.

No matter the circumstances that lead to opioid addiction, there is presently an increase in the number of unborn babies who are exposed to drugs. Being adopted by a caring family can make a huge difference in the lives of these children.

How Do Hospitals Address the Opioid Addiction Issue?

Hospitals statewide have established a protocol for weaning babies from drugs. If a child is going to be adopted, the adoptive parents are urged to be present in the hospital during the withdrawal stages. Most of the time, a prescribed opiate such as morphine is provided to help the baby cope while progressively reducing the amount used. Adoption counselors may also arrange birth mother visits to help the baby by having the birth mom hold the child.

Luckily, the effects of opioid withdrawal typically pass within a few weeks, and the babies rarely need long-term medication. Statistics indicate that it will presumably take six to eight weeks for all withdrawal symptoms to disappear if the birth mother was on methadone for as little as one month before birth. For that reason, intervention as early as possible in the pregnancy is important to assist the birth mother with transitioning to medically prescribed opioids such as suboxone, naloxone or methadone. Then when the baby is born, the withdrawal period will be easier and shorter.


To help with identifying potential drug use issues, our adoption counselors work closely with every birth mother. They will ask about drug, alcohol and cigarette use in a nonjudgmental way, which expresses mutual interest in supporting the health of the birth mother and her unborn child. Additionally, checking criminal and medical records may help reveal information that the birth mother might be afraid to share. We put a great deal of effort into finding out what, if any, substances the birth mother may have been using during her pregnancy. Then, we help both her and her baby receive treatment.

Our goal is to do our very best to assist the birth mothers in entering a substance abuse program. When necessary, a regulated opioid such as suboxone or methadone is prescribed so that her cravings are controlled and the baby’s withdrawals will be less severe.

For more information and assistance with adoption in Tennessee, call us at 865-392-6261.


Author: Destiny Adoption Services

Destiny Adoption Services is proud to support and guide birth parents and adoptive families on the journey of adoption. We’re a state licensed nonprofit adoption agency with four decades of adoption experience, and our professional team of experts includes moms, adoptive moms and birth mothers who provide compassion combined with trusted resources and skills.