More than 1,000 newborns needed treatment because of their mother’s drug use last year, the Mirror can reveal.
Exclusive figures from the NHS have revealed that 1,052 babies across England were born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) in 2018/19.
The number includes babies born physically dependent on drugs themselves because of their mother’s drug use, and those suffering from issues such as low birth weight and developmental problems.
However, charities say that punishing mothers who use addictive drugs during pregnancy is not the answer.
Sharon Mallett, interim director of nursing at drug, alcohol and mental health charity Addaction, said: “No baby is born ‘addicted’ to drugs.
"They may have developed a physical dependency to a substance, but they haven’t developed the psychological need that characterises addiction.
“While these numbers are clearly concerning, they also have to be considered in context. Smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy cause far more harm to babies than illicit drugs.
“Meanwhile, mothers who use drugs during pregnancy often experience overwhelming guilt. Punishing them only serves to impact their relationship with the developing baby and can prevent them from accessing help.
“The earlier parents seek support the better the results are for all. Our response should focus on working together with midwives to create non-judgemental environments where mothers feel comfortable in coming forward and accessing support.”
The 1,052 babies born with NAS was down from 1,162 newborns affected by maternal drug addiction in 2017/18.
Figures for specific boroughs are not available, as where the number of babies was between one and seven these figures were suppressed by the NHS to protect patient confidentiality.
Nationally, more than 1,200 babies are born with NAS every year, on average.
Around four in every five have what doctors call “neonatal withdrawal symptoms” - meaning they have developed a physical dependency on the drug, and essentially have to go cold turkey.
While details are not given for specific cases, the drugs that these babies are born addicted to can include heroin, crack cocaine and methadone.
Some symptoms of withdrawal that babies have to endure include fever, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as uncontrollable trembling and blotchy skin.
In some cases, a newborn may have to be given opiates to wean them off drugs such as heroin.
Across England, 1,052 babies were born affected by their mother's drug use in 2018/19 alone.
In many cases these babies would be taken into care - from as young as five days old - but some experts believe the outcomes for both mum and baby are much better if they are kept together.
Trevi House is a Plymouth-based charity that allows children with mums experiencing drug or alcohol addiction the chance to remain with them.
They say that keeping mum and baby together means mothers are more likely to get through drug detox, and avoids the trauma of separation and the child being placed in foster care.
However, the type of support offered by Trevi House is patchy, and there is a postcode lottery when it comes to getting the help needed.