Arkansas mom loses custody of newborn due to postpartum pills addiction

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA) – At 17, Kahler Pendergrass delivered her daughter through a Cesarean section, but it wasn’t just her new baby that would change her life.

“You just bring a baby home from the hospital, got this new little bundle of joy, and then this little bitty orange bottle comes in and trashes everything,” Pendergrass said.

The young mother was prescribed pills to help her manage her pain. 

“They ended up giving me a prescription for 40 percocet, I remember vividly,” she added.

Less than two weeks later she said she was prescribed 40 more.

Pendergrass recalled how quickly she became addicted to percocet. 

“The pills, they became more important to me than I guess her,” she said referencing her newborn daughter.

Dr. James W. Gorman, a Partner with Parkhill Clinic, said there are safeguards in place to ensure they don’t over prescribe to patients. 

“We go through the Arkansas Prescription Monitoring System so we can see what a patient has used in the past, what patterns of use they have, and we can try and avoid worsening a problem that might already be there,” he explained.

With no history of misusing drugs, Pendergrass went from using percocet to treat her post-birth pain, to abusing them. 

After she ran out of her prescription, she then purchased drugs illegally.

One night on her way home from a drug dealer’s house, Pendergrass, her daughter, and her child’s father were in a crash.

“I don’t really remember the wreck because I had a brain bleed,” Pendergrass mentioned.

Because there were drugs in the vehicle at the time of the accident, the Arkansas Department of Human Services stepped in. 

“I remember every second of it. From them knocking on the door and me answering the door, and immediately wishing that I hadn’t, to her saying we’re going to remove her from your custody,” said Pendergrass.

At the time, her daughter was just two months old.

“Hitting bottom is a must,” said Twana Nixon, a recovering addict who now works as a treatment specialist with Addiction Campuses. 

Nixon said people like Pendergrass often let the euphoric feeling of being high, rationalize their use of the pills. 

“When the opioid attaches to the opioid receptor, it releases the endorphins in the brain and the endorphins are the feel-good transmitters,” she said.

It’s what Nixon said keeps drug users addicted. 

“That’s what they keep going back to, and the brain gets accustomed to that, and then they get set on just having one more fix.

Three years later Pendergrass is sober.

She recalled what it was like being at her lowest of lows. 

“I would take the pills and then I’d feel better for a little while, then I’d go right back to missing my daughter,” she said.

Pendergrass still doesn’t have custody of her daughter, but she recently gave birth to a baby boy and is raising him.

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