100s of babies born drug-dependent last year

Almost 1 in 500 babies were born dependent on drugs in hospitals in England last year, freedom of information requests (FOIs) by the BBC have shown.

The number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome – caused by exposure to addictive opiate drugs in the womb – varied in hospitals across the country.

The news comes after two public health organisations recently called for the complete decriminalisation of drugs in the UK.

Drug dependency

The BBC recieved responses from 72 NHS hospital trusts and calculated that the average rate across England was 0.2 per cent, or 1 in 500 babies.

The highest incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome was at Bedford Hospital, where 1 in every 100 babies was born with the condition last year.

Around 1 in 250 babies were born with the condition in 2015 in Leeds, whereas at Leicester General Hospital, the rate was around 1 in 5,000.


Lisa Batty, the mother of four children and a former heroin addict, spoke to the BBC about her drug taking and how it affected her kids.

“I didn’t care that my kids were addicted to drugs, I was more concerned about where I was getting my next fix from. I know it’s selfish but that’s how it felt at the time.

“I remember visiting my children in hospital as they suffered withdrawal symptoms from the methadone they were being given as part of their treatment.

“I remember seeing them trembling and shaking in their cots. I admit I was a bad mum but I’ve turned my life around now”, she said.


Last month the Government slammed calls by the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal Society for Public Health to completely decriminalise drugs in the UK.

The groups had endorsed a report which claimed that the so-called ‘war on drugs’ has failed and advocated allowing possession and personal use of all drugs.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The UK’s approach on drugs remains clear – we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people dependent on drugs through treatment and recovery.

“At the same time we have to stop the supply of illegal drugs and tackle the organised crime behind the drugs trade.”