'Utterly heartbreaking': Over 850 babies born with addiction in Scotland since 2017

7 January 2022, 00:47

More than 800 babies have been born with an addiction since 2017.
More than 800 babies have been born with an addiction since 2017. Picture: Alamy
Gina Davidson

By Gina Davidson

"Heartbreaking" new figures have shown that more than 850 babies have been born with addiction issues in Scotland in the last four years.

The majority were born suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) - a group of conditions caused when babies withdraw from certain drugs they have been exposed to in the womb, which can result in infants suffering from uncontrollable trembling and hyperactivity as well as having blotchy skin and high-pitch crying.

The figures, revealed by a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, show that a total of 173 such births were recorded in both 2019-20 and 2020-21 - which was a fall from 205 in 2018-19 and 249 in 2017-18.

A further 52 babies were born addicted in the first part of 2021-22.

The party's leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said the "utterly heart-breaking" figures showed more cash needed to be invested in drug and alcohol services.

"It is hard to think of a worse possible start in life for a newborn baby to have to endure," he said.

"Drug misuse should always be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice matter. Anything else will condemn many more children to be born into these awful circumstances."

The largest number of births where infants were suffering from NAS was in NHS Lothian, which recorded 434 such cases, followed by 143 in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and 118 in NHS Grampian.

NHS Shetland and NHS Fife both failed to provide figures.

Read more: Colston Four verdict: Lord Sumption tells LBC he doesn't particularly admire jury system

Read more: 'It's a tip': Boris 'sorry' as missing messages emerge over Downing Street flat refurb

Mr Cole-Hamilton added: "In 2016, the Scottish Government slashed funding to drug and alcohol partnerships by more than 20%.

"Valuable local facilities shut their doors and expertise was lost which has proved hard to replace.

"Scotland now has its highest-ever number of drug-related deaths. The Scottish Government has belatedly begun to repair that damage but there is so much more to do.

"It is time for radical action, not just to help people struggling with drug misuse today but for future generations too.

"That means investing in local services which are best placed to intervene to stop lives from being lost and new lives starting dependent on substances."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said increasing investment in local services and providing support to women and families were "central to the public health approach being taken in Scotland".

She added: "The national mission is backed up with an additional £250 million to improve and increase access to treatment and recovery services for people affected by problem drug use.

"This includes direct funding of £3 million per year to support families as well as £3.5 million additional funding for services to provide support through the Whole Family Framework launched in December 2021.

"This Government has also agreed in principle to fund a national specialist residential family service which will be run by the charity and housing association, Phoenix Futures, and based in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, to support single parents or couples along with their children.

"The service will also support women through their pregnancy and into motherhood."