Cole-Hamilton reveals more than 850 babies born dependent on substances in four years

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today said that new funding is needed for drug and alcohol services after new figures revealed more than 850 babies born dependent on substances since 2017. 

Statistics compiled by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information requests show that at least 856 babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) - showing signs of drug addiction because of their mother taking legal or illegal drugs during pregnancy.

The health board reporting the most cases was Lothian with 434, followed by Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 143 and Grampian with 118. NHS Western Isles did not report any cases. Fife and Shetland responded that they were unable to provide the information.

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

Commenting, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: 

“There figures are utterly heartbreaking. It is hard to think of a worse possible start in life for a new-born baby to have to endure. 

“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.  

“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.” 

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