Over one thousand babies in Scotland born dependent on drugs

Almost 1,400 babies in Scotland have been born dependent on drugs since 2017, Freedom of Information requests have revealed.

According to the figures compiled by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, at least 1,363 children were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in the last seven years.

The syndrome, which can cause uncontrollable trembling and hyperactivity, is caused by exposure to drugs in the womb.

‘Awful start’

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex 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 for a newborn baby than to be born dependent on drugs.”

The statistics revealed that the number of NAS cases reached a high of 243 in 2017-18.

The majority of cases were reported by NHS Lothian, followed by NHS Grampian and then Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Worse than heroin

According to Public Health Scotland (PHS), synthetic drugs known as nitazenes were linked to 25 deaths in Scotland between January 2022 and September 2023.

Dr Tara Shivaji, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at PHS, said: “Nitazenes are highly potent opioid drugs, which can be many times stronger than more common opioids like heroin.”

PHS called the drugs, which are usually taken with a mixture of other substances, a “serious harm to health”.

Despite unearthing data showing the dangers of drug use, the Scottish Liberal Democrats want to decriminalise drug possession.


Last year, the UK Government shot down the SNP’s push to decriminalise all drugs for personal use.

Under the Scottish Government’s proposals, addicts would no longer be criminalised for possessing Class A drugs such as cocaine or heroin unless they intend to supply it to others. The proposals, which repeat calls made by the Scottish Government’s Drugs Deaths Taskforce in 2021, urged the UK Government to devolve powers on drugs legislation or change the law itself.

In September, Glasgow officials approved the introduction of a drug room where addicts can inject themselves without fear of arrest. Once open, it will be the first prosecution-free drug zone in the UK.

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