Three new born babies a day are treated for drug addiction in shock NHS figures

Three babies a day are having treatment for drug addiction ­after being born hooked on ­heroin or cocaine.

Shock figures from NHS Digital show hospitals dealt with 5,000 cases of ­addicted tots over the last four years.

NAS – neonatal abstinence syndrome – affects babies whose mums have abused drugs during pregnancy.

When the umbilical cord is cut, the supply of drugs suddenly stops, so the addicted infant goes cold turkey.

Typical symptoms include high-pitched or incessant crying, tremors, vomiting and sweating.

But babies can also suffer dehydration, diarrhoea, fevers and even seizures.

Some may need medication to treat severe withdrawal symptoms, usually from the same family of drugs as the substance that the baby is ­addicted to.

Once the signs of withdrawal are controlled, the dosage is gradually decreased to help wean the baby off the drug.

Figures from the NHS show the problem is countrywide.

Its Clinical Commissioning Group for Basildon and Brentwood in Essex handled the cases of 44 ­babies needing treatment for neonatal withdrawal symptoms in 2016/17 – the highest number for that year.

Thurrock CCG looked after 33 tots, Sandwell and West Birmingham, 26, Northern Eastern and Western Devon, 23, and Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, 22.

But there is not much help for the babies or their mums outside hospital.

There is just one women-only rehab service in the country – Trevi House in Plymouth – where mums can get support and treatment while living on-site with their babies.

Chief executive Hannah Shead said: “Years ago there were lots of services like ours, but one by one they have all closed due to funding cuts.

"Services like ours aren’t given priority when it comes to funding because, sadly, a lot of people feel addicts don’t deserve help.

“Yet none of the women we support wanted to end up in this position. Most are victims of childhood sexual trauma and domestic violence.

"The shame and guilt they feel is huge. But all they need is help and support to break the cycle.

“A mum might come to us on baby four or five. Her previous children have all been taken into care.

“By getting her through treatment, addressing her underlying issues and enabling her to keep her child, we break that cycle of repeat removal.”

“Not only is that the best outcome for the family, it means we save money too because the costs associated with putting children in care are phenomenal.”

Jane Simons, director of nursing for drug and alcohol charity Addaction, said society’s attitude to drug addiction must change because it stops many pregnant women from asking for help.

She said: “Stigma and shame are big barriers for women but early referral is so important. We treat mums with ­compassion and work with them to make positive changes in their substance use.”

A Department of Health spokesman said it was investing more than £16billion in local government public health ­services. They added rates of drug ­misuse are “lower than ten years ago”.

To donate to Trevi House, visit

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