Current Affairs

More than 1500 babies in the UK are born addicted to drugs

The Guardian

More than 1,500 babies a year are born addicted to drugs, NHS figures show. They include cases where doctors have been forced to give opiates to babies in order to wean them off heroin.

More than 7,800 newborns have been recorded with “neonatal withdrawal symptoms” in the last five years, effectively putting them into cold turkey after becoming dependent on drugs their mothers took during pregnancy.

They include 6,599 cases in England, 738 in Scotland and 464 cases in Wales, according to data obtained by the Mirror.

The figures show a 22% increase in cases over the last 10 years, from 1,192 in 2004-5 to 1,536 in the past 12 months.

Christian Guy, director of the Centre for Social Justice thinktank, said: “The 1,500 innocent babies born into the trauma of addiction each year are being given a tragic start in life. It demonstrates that addiction is not just about individual choice – it affects children, families, communities and public services.”

Vivienne Evans, chief executive of the family support charity Adfam, said: “If pregnant women think they will be mistreated, stigmatised or have their children taken away, they will be scared to access the health services that they and their babies need. We need specialist doctors, midwives and social workers to work with them.”

A study published this year found that more than half of women drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy. Women who had more than two units a week were twice as likely to give birth to unexpectedly small or premature babies as women who did not drink at all.

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