Almost 600 babies born addicted to drugs since 2015, figures suggest
Scottish Liberal Democrats said FoI findings highlighted the need for ‘more progressive’ policies to tackle addiction.
Almost 600 babies have been born addicted to drugs in Scotland since 2015, figures released using Freedom of Information have revealed.
Data from health boards showed 584 infants – the equivalent of almost four a week – were delivered suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) over the period.
The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures said the showed why Scotland needed to have a “more progressive” policy for dealing with drug abuse.
Their health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “On average, a baby is born every other day in Scotland addicted to harmful substances. These are terrible circumstances under which to take your first breath.”
Babies born with NAS, which is caused by drugs passing from the mother to her unborn child during pregnancy, can suffer from a range of symptoms, including uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, and high pitched crying.
The number of infants recorded as being affected by this fluctuated from 2013 in 2015-16, to 190 in 2016-17 and 191 in 2017-18.
If the Scottish Government is committed to giving every Scottish child the best start in life it needs to take a progressive approach to drug policy Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton
The problem was worst in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, with 178 infants born addicted to drugs over the three years.
Meanwhile there were 120 such births in the Grampian region over this period, and 63 in NHS Lothian between 2015 and 2017 – having only provided data for that period.
NHS Tayside gave figures for births in the calendar years 2015, 2016 and 2017, with the number of infants born addicted totalling 61 over this period.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said the problem of having babies born already hooked on drugs could “be avoided with the right combination of policies and support to help those misusing drugs, protecting them and future generations”.
He argued: “If the Scottish Government is committed to giving every Scottish child the best start in life it needs to take a progressive approach to drug policy and tackle the horrendous levels of drug misuse, life-long addictions and unnecessary deaths.
“Alcohol and drug partnerships were set back massively by the Scottish Government’s brutal £20 million funding cuts. It was rightly overturned two years later but the sector is still in recovery, local facilities are depleted and these distressing statistics show just how misjudged and dangerous that decision was. It can’t happen again.
“We also need a new national strategy that is finally focused on treating drug misuse as a health issue, supporting people instead of criminalising and penalising them.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to giving every child the best start in life.
“Our new combined drug and alcohol strategy, publishing in the coming weeks, will focus on how services can adapt to meet the needs of those most in need – including those not ready to abstain from drug use.
“We have recently released further funding to reduce the harms caused by alcohol and drugs, bringing the total provided to more than £70 million this financial year.
“This is in addition to the £746 million we have invested to tackle alcohol and drug use since 2008.”