Four UK Babies Are Born With Drug Dependency Each Day

By Bryan Le 08/06/14

Doctors sometimes prescribe opiates to wean addicted newborns from their inherited drug dependencies.


Four babies are born with neonatal abstinence syndrome every day in the United Kingdom, according to new statistics released by the National Health Service (NHS).

When a mother uses certain drugs while pregnant, the baby can inherit her dependency in the womb. And after birth, doctors must treat the baby in order to stave off powerful withdrawal symptoms, sometimes having to intervene using opiates in order to wean the newborns off their dependency. About 1,500 newborns show signs of these "neonatal withdrawal symptoms"  each year in the UK, and roughly 7,800 babies have been born addicted to drugs since 2009.

"It is crucial that mums-to-be with a drug problem are identified quickly," said Vivienne Evans, chief executive of family support charity Adfam. Evans has argued that there is a need for specialists to serve addicted mothers to help keep them off drugs during pregnancy.

Evans also stressed the need for addicted moms to feel reassured they would not be mistreated, stigmatized, or threatened to have their babies taken away. In the United States, where about 3 in 1,000 pregnant women are addicted to drugs, at least one woman has been charged with assault for using meth while pregnant.

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

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter