Lib Dem question reveals babies are born here ‘addicted’ to drugs

By Lucy Ashton

BBC Scotland is reporting that nearly 600 babies have been born “addicted” to drugs since 2015, health boards have revealed.

The problem was worst in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, which covers West Dunbartonshire and South Argyll, with 178 cases over the three years.

The Liberal Democrats, who obtained the figures using Freedom of Information, said they showed why Scotland needed a “more progressive” drug abuse policy.

The Scottish government said it was “committed to giving every child the best start in life”.

Data from health boards showed 584 infants – the equivalent of almost four a week – were delivered suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) over the three-year period.

Cole hamilton AlexLib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton, pictured left, 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.”

Babies born with NAS, which is caused by drugs passing from the mother to her unborn child during pregnancy, can suffer from a range of symptoms, including uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, and high-pitched crying.

The number of infants recorded as being affected by this fluctuated from 203 in 2015-16, to 190 in 2016-17 and 191 in 2017-18.

There were 120 such births in the Grampian region over this period and 63 in NHS Lothian between 2015 and 2017 – the board having only provided data for that period.

NHS Tayside gave figures for births in the calendar years 2015, 2016 and 2017, with the number of infants born addicted totalling 61 over this period.

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.

“Alcohol and drug partnerships were set back massively by the Scottish government’s brutal £20m funding cuts. It was rightly overturned two years later but the sector is still in recovery. It can’t happen again.

“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 spokesman said: “We have recently released further funding to reduce the harms caused by alcohol and drugs, bringing the total provided to more than £70m this financial year.

“This is in addition to the £746m we have invested to tackle alcohol and drug use since 2008.”

West Dunbartonshire Council’s Health and Social Care Partnership refuse to take questions from The Democrat which would like to know what initiatives are being taken locally to deal with this matter. There are no Liberal Democrats on West Dunbartonshire Council.

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