Over 700 babies in Scotland were born addicted to opiates, methadone and diazepam in the last five years.

Medically the condition is referred to as neo-natal abstinence syndrome (NAS), where a child is born already addicted to the same drugs their mother has been consuming during pregnancy. Some 729 babies in Scotland were born with the condition between 2012 and 2016, according to new research.

The drugs, either legal or illegal, pass from the mother to the foetus through the blood stream and have dire medical repercussions. Babies with this addiction are more likely to be born pre-term with growth restrictions and lower weight.

Once born, the withdrawal from the drugs is the same as that of an adult. The infant can endure uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, blotchy skin and high-pitch crying. If the mother has been injecting the drugs she also runs at risk of contracting HIV or Hepatitus C which can be transmitted directly to the infant.

In Dumfries and Galloway alone, between 2012 and 2016, 35 babies were born addicted to methadone, 27 were addicted to heroin and opiates and 23 were addicted to diazepam.

Other drugs listed as those found in newborns included codeine, cocaine and fentanyl. Illicit drug use in adults is also associated with an increased risk of child neglect, as well as the exposure of children to violence and physical abuse of children. According to research from Dr Graeme Scobbie, Public Health Advisor for the NHS, children who are born with NAS have a higher chance of drug misuse in their adulthood.

Direct government funding to alcohol and drug partnerships have been slashed in Scotland with a freedom of information request revealing that half of Scotland’s health boards were not making up the shortfall in funds as promised. This has created concern amongst drug campaign groups that the opportunities for preventative treatments are being overlooked.

The biggest cut was found to be in Lanarkshire where spending from Scottish Government and the NHS board amounted to a cut of £700,000 in 2015/16. Funding has also gone down in Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Grampian, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information request on behalf of the Liberal Democrats. Commenting, Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

“These figures are utterly heart-breaking. To think that a new born baby is having to start life in rehab is beyond imagination. What makes it worse is that each case is tragedy that could have been avoided.

“The Scottish Government has slashed funding to drug and alcohol partnerships by more than 20%. Valuable local facilities have shut their doors. The number of drug-related deaths has spiralled to its highest ever level. The argument against these cuts is even clearer now than it ever has been.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Whilst these statistics are troubling, drug use among the general population continues to fall, while drug taking levels among young people remain low.

“The Scottish Government has invested over £630 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008, with the bulk of our funding, £574 million, being provided via NHS boards to alcohol and drug partnerships for investment in local prevention, treatment and recovery support services. Meanwhile Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce a national naloxone programme to reduce the effects of overdoses.”