More than 1,100 babies born in Scotland with signs of addiction in past five years

More than 1,100 babies have been born dependent on substances in the past five years, leading to calls for world-leading alcohol and drug services in Scotland.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have urged the Scottish Government to invest in supporting babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

The condition means the children show signs of drug addiction because of their mother's misuse of legal or illegal substances during pregnancy.

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Figures obtained by the party through Freedom of Information legislation reveal 1,123 babies have been born with the condition in Scotland since 2017.

More than 1,100 babies have been born dependent on substances in the last five years in ScotlandMore than 1,100 babies have been born dependent on substances in the last five years in Scotland
More than 1,100 babies have been born dependent on substances in the last five years in Scotland

A total of 147 such births have been recorded in 2022/23 to date, down from 209 in 2021/22, while 161 were recorded in 2020/21, 164 in 2019/20, 199 in 2018/19 and 243 in 2017/18.

Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said ministers must take more action after the Scottish Drug Death Taskforce's report noted funding to be "woefully inadequate" in the area.

NHS Lothian recorded the most cases of NAS over the five years with 609, followed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 183, and NHS Grampian with 156.

Symptoms of NAS, caused by blood passing from the mother to her foetus during pregnancy, include uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, blotchy skin and high-pitch crying.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "These figures are utterly heart-breaking. There is perhaps no worse possible start in life for a newborn baby.

"[Last] year, independent experts described the Government's current funding for drugs and alcohol as woefully inadequate for this level of public emergency.

"Years of underfunding saw vulnerable local facilities shut their doors and critical expertise lost.

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"Nicola Sturgeon has admitted her Government wasn't paying attention while Scotland's situation became many times worse than anywhere else in Europe. 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.”

Some £250 million has been earmarked by the Scottish Government to support its national mission on tackling drug misuse.

It will be spent on increasing and improving access to treatment and recovery services for people affected by problem drug use, and includes £3m a year to support families and £3.5m to provide support through the Whole Family Framework.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "No newborn baby should be dependent on substances, and we are increasing investment in local services and providing support to women and families as part of our national mission to tackle the drug death emergency.

"We are funding a national specialist residential family service run by the charity and housing association Phoenix Futures in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, to support single parents or couples along with their children.

"The service, which opened in November, will also support women through their pregnancy and into motherhood. We are also committed to preventing the harm caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy, of which there is no safe level, and to supporting those impacted by foetal alcohol spectrum disorder."



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