More than 1,500 babies were born addicted to drugs last year, according to statistics uncovered by a national newspaper.
Since 2009, almost 8,000 babies have been born showing symptoms of drug withdrawal, the Daily Mirror found.
The figures show “addiction is not just about individual choice – it affects children, families, communities and public services”, according to one think-tank.
The Mirror used freedom of information requests to gain figures on the issue from NHS organisations, stretching back five years.
An average of over 1,500 babies a year since 2009 were born showing “neonatal withdrawal symptoms”, the figures revealed.
Most of the babies involved were born in England – some 6,600 – with over 700 in Scotland and almost 500 in Wales.
In 2013 the figure for Great Britain stood at 1,536.
In its investigation the Mirror also found that some babies were given drugs when they were born to wean them off heroin.
Christian Guy, the director of the Centre for Social Justice think-tank, said the “trauma of addiction” was a “tragic start in life”.
He also called for action from political parties, saying: “With less than a year until the general election they need to grapple with some of the deeper issues in society, as well as the ones aimed at winning votes.
“The best place to start is to offer more effective abstinence-based treatment and to do more to prevent drug abuse.”