Nearly 600 babies have been born addicted to drugs in Scotland since 2015, health boards have revealed. The problem appears to be worst among babies born in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area of the country where 178 cases were recorded over 3 years.
In all, 584 infants – the equivalent of almost four babies a week – were delivered suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) over the 3-year period. The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures using Freedom of Information, said they showed why Scotland needed a more progressive drug abuse policy.
Liberal Democrat 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.”
Commenting on the statistics, the Scottish government said it was committed to giving every child the best start in life.
New drug strategy
Babies are born with NAS because drugs pass from the mother to the unborn child during pregnancy. The symptoms of NAS range from uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity and high-pitched crying.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said the problem could be avoided, “with the right combination of policies and support to help those misusing drugs”.
He added: “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”.
“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.”
The Scottish government said its new combined drug and alcohol strategy would focus on how services can adapt to meet the needs of those most in need.
A government spokesman said: “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.”