(KNOXVILLE) A group of University of Tennessee journalism students are hoping to help people better understand pill addiction through a new documentary.
"Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy and Addiction in East Tennessee" premieres on WBIR at 7 p.m. March 10.
The film focuses on the youngest victims: babies born dependent on drugs.
In the final days before the documentary airs, the students are getting last-minute shots and making sure each edit is just right.
"Everyone is rushing this deadline, just doing what you can to get results," said Jacob Sides, UT freshman and one of the film's production assistants.
The writers, photographers, and editors are all UT students. Ten students have spent dozens of hours over the last nine months piecing the story together.
“From the start to the end, it's student run. I try to provide guidance and make things better when I can, but I try to leave as much decision-making to our students as possible," said journalism professor Dr. Nick Geidner.
Geidner and students had success with a 2014 documentary about the Medal of Honor convention coming to Knoxville. He had the equipment and interest from students and decided to do another film.
A number of people, including the Metropolitan Drug Coalition, asked them to look into addiction during pregnancy and the impact it's having on East Tennessee.
"Five hundred seventy-seven babies were born with NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome) last year alone in East Tennessee. I think that's the thing that shocks me and blows my mind every time I see it," Geidner said.
NAS is what babies are born with when their mothers abuse drugs during their pregnancies. It causes the baby to have withdrawal symptoms from the drugs including tremors, seizures, and sleep problems.
"You can't stop it. You know you're hurting your child, you know you're doing this to them, but yet you're still going to go out and get that other pill," said one of the mothers featured in the documentary.
Freshman Abby Bower got to know the moms in recovery through interviews and shoots. She had to ask tough questions.
"It was a little bit hard to talk to her about some stuff because it is really personal," Bower said.
But, she said, it helped her gain an understanding of addiction that many people twice their age have not been exposed to.
"I had no idea about this epidemic until I got into this project," Sides said. "Sharing awareness about it is something that is very important to me."
It started as a way for Sides and Bower to gain experience, but it has turned into something these students believe in.
"I think we have a chance to help make this problem better and that's mindboggling to think of. That our students and the work that they're doing could really affect mothers and children in East Tennessee. It's really a great feeling," Geidner said.
You can watch the documentary "Reaching Recovery: Pregnancy and Addiction in East Tennessee" at 7 p.m. March 10. Following the film will be a 10Listens community forum on the topic with a panel of experts live on WBIR.