More than 1,100 babies born with signs of drug addiction since 2017

Symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome include uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, blotchy skin and high-pitch crying.

More than 1,100 babies born with signs of drug addiction since 2017 in Scotland iStock

More than 1,100 Scottish babies have been born dependent on substances in the last five years, according to new figures.

The revelation has led to calls for world-leading alcohol and drug services, with the Scottish Liberal Democrats urging the Scottish Government to invest in supporting babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

In NAS, children show signs of drug addiction due to their mother’s misuse of legal or illegal substances during pregnancy.

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.

Figures obtained by the party through freedom of information legislation revealed that 1,123 babies have been born with the condition in Scotland since 2017.

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.

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.

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.

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

“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.

“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.”

Some £250m 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 per year to support families and £3.5m to provide support through the Whole Family Framework.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “No new born 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.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code