Over 1,300 Newborns in Scotland Suffer from Drug Dependency in Recent Years

January 3, 2024 - Reading time: 2 minutes

In a concerning revelation, official statistics indicate that Scotland has seen over 1,300 newborns suffering from drug dependency within a span of seven years. This data, uncovered by the Scottish Liberal Democrats via a Freedom of Information request, highlights that since 2017, there have been 1,363 cases of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS is a condition that occurs when newborns are exposed to addictive substances like opioids in the womb, leading to potential withdrawal symptoms post-birth.

The report shows a diverse range of substances contributing to this condition, including both illicit and legal drugs. Newborns with NAS often experience symptoms such as severe trembling, heightened activity levels, irregular skin patches, and intense, high-pitched crying. Region-wise, NHS Lothian documented 692 cases, followed by NHS Grampian with 209, and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde with 201. Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, criticized the SNP Government for its role in this crisis, citing the government's budget cuts to drug and alcohol services as a contributing factor.

"The tragedy of drug misuse extends beyond mortality rates; it also inflicts profound suffering in numerous ways, the most heart-wrenching being newborns starting life with drug dependency," Cole-Hamilton remarked. He emphasized the negative impact of funding cuts, leading to the closure of essential services and loss of expertise in this field. Amidst this situation, former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had acknowledged the need for focused efforts on drug misuse, describing it as a "national mission," while admitting that the government had previously not given it sufficient attention.

The SNP’s Drug Policy Minister, Elena Whitham, expressed concern over the issue, emphasizing that no child should be born with substance dependency. She highlighted the government’s commitment to increasing funding and support for women and families, as part of a broader strategy to address the drug death crisis. Whitham pointed out a significant increase in drug policy funding from 2014/15 to 2023/24. The article also notes a rise in suspected drug-related deaths, marking a 13% increase from the previous year in the same period.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.