MORE BABIES ARE BORN DRUG-DEPENDENT
Newborns with drug-withdrawal symptoms are up by 67% in 10 years as money for specialist rehab units runs out, writes Nina Lakhani of The Independent on Sunday.
In 2007-8, 1,230 babies in England suffered from symptoms including poor sleep, agitation and difficulty feeding because of serious drug use by their mothers during pregnancy.
According to the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, one in 500 newborn babies need treatment with small doses of morphine to control these symptoms. But research by the IoS found the number of babies affected is much higher than official figures.
Last year, a total of 350 babies were born to addicted mothers in Manchester, Fife and Bradford alone. Most recovered naturally without being prescribed medication – physical withdrawals occur only if the mother uses either opiates such as heroin and methadone or sedatives such as diazepam during pregnancy.
So newborns who experience problems from exposure to cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis might be excluded from these statistics.
According to experts, the increase in withdrawing babies reflects the number of women abusing drugs and alcohol as well as a 60% increase in the number of women seen by drug services which prescribe methadone – the legal alternative to heroin.
These findings come just weeks after Edinburgh City Council took the unprecedented step of appealing for new foster carers after the number of babies born to addicted mothers doubled between 2007 and 2008.
Professor David Field, president of the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, said: "In the mid-1990s, you rarely saw these babies but now there is always one on the ward who is withdrawing, and the numbers will grow as the rates of addiction continue to grow. Most women we see tend to be on heroin or methadone or both."
Bethany Lodge, the specialist mother-and-baby rehab unit, is one of 19 centres to close in the past two years. "This further highlights the importance that we ensure that those who are habitual and dependent drug users are directed to effective drug rehabilitation schemes which bring them off drugs completely so that we can also protect unborn children," said shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
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