‘Troubling’ figures reveal 700 babies were born drug-dependent in Scotland in five years

Over 700 babies were born addicted to drugs in Scotland over the past five years, new figures have shown.

The number of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) – caused by exposure to addictive opiate drugs in the womb – varied across a number of different health boards.

The Scottish Government has described the results as “troubling”. It comes shortly after separate figures revealed that drug-related deaths reached a record high in Scotland in 2016.

Freedom of Information

The figures, released under Freedom of Information legislation, showed that some 729 babies were born with the condition between 2012 and 2016.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde recorded the largest number with 344 and NHS Lothian area had the second highest total with 112.

And NHS Tayside, NHS Fife and NHS Forth Valley had 55, 45 and 42 respectively.

Dire consequences

Drugs pass from the mother to the baby through the bloodstream and this can have dire consequences.

Drug-dependent babies are more likely to be born prematurely and experience growth restrictions and a lower than average weight.

Withdrawal symptoms from the drugs will be the same for babies as they are for adults, including hyperactivity and uncontrollable trembling.

‘Utterly heart-breaking’

Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP, whose Liberal Democrat party obtained the figures, said they were “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 a tragedy that could have been avoided.”

And Dr Graeme Scobie, public health advisor for the NHS, said babies who are born with NAS have a higher risk of drug misuse in their adult lives.


Last month, official statistics released in a report by the National Records of Scotland found there were 867 drug-related deaths in 2016, the highest on record.

Drug deaths have almost quadrupled in Scotland over the last 20 years, up from 244 deaths in 1996.

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