New figures have revealed that almost 1400 babies in Scotland have been born dependent on substances since 2017. 

Data recording the number of newborns showing signs of drug dependency was obtained through a freedom of information (FOI) request by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, whose health spokesperson has said the Scottish Government must “shoulder some of the blame”. 

At least 1363 babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is caused by drugs taken by a mother during pregnancy passing to her foetal blood stream, over the period. 

Annual figures have not reached a high of 243 babies born with NAS since 2017/18, and figures have fluctuated since then. 

However, the rate was on the increase over the last year, with 195 babies born showing signs of drug dependency in the year 2023/24 compared to 186 in 2022/23. 

The health board which has registered the most cases since 2017 is NHS Lothian with 692, a figure four times greater than the board with the second highest rate which was NHS Grampian.

Grampian had 209 cases while NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde registered 201. 

Babies born dependent on substances often suffer from uncontrollable trembling, hyperactivity, blotchy skin and high-pitch crying. 

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Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the party’s health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has demanded that the Scottish Government commits to creating “world-leading drug and alcohol services” in light of the figures. 

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Drug deaths make the headlines but in a host of other ways drug misuse can make lives a misery. 

“There is perhaps no more awful start in life for a new-born baby than to be born dependent on drugs.

“The Scottish Government needs to shoulder some of the blame. The cuts they delivered meant drug and alcohol services closed their doors and valuable expertise was lost.”

Drug policy minister for the Scottish government Elena Whitman has said that investment in local services and support for women and families is increasing. 

The Scottish government has earmarked £250 million for its national scheme on tackling drug misuse, targeting access to treatment and recovery services. 

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Ms Whitman said: “No newborn baby should be born dependent on substances and mothers should be able to get the help they need, free from judgement and stigma.
“We are increasing investment in local services and providing support to women and families as part of our national mission, backed by £250 million, to tackle the drug deaths emergency.

“Funding for drug policy has increased by 67% in real terms from 2014/15 to 2023/24, according to Audit Scotland figures published last year.

“This includes direct funding of £3 million per year to support families as well as £3.5 million additional funding for services to provide support through the whole families framework launched in December 2021.

“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 (FASD).