At least 985 drug-dependent babies were born in the UK between 2016 and 2017, according to figures revealed through a Freedom Of Information requests made to NHS trusts on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

109 of these babies were suffering from what is referred to medically as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), babies born to mothers using drugs, either legal or illegal, while pregnant receive drugs into the bloodstream and when the umbilical cord is cut upon birth, the drugs supply is abruptly cut off and the baby goes through the symptoms of withdrawal the same way in which an adult would.

Don’t miss on the latest updates Follow the Child Health Channel

What are the symptoms of NAS?

The neonatal withdrawal symptoms include continuous high-pitched crying, rapid breathing, blotchy skin, excessive sweating, uncontrollable shaking and in some cases fits along with constant vomiting and diarrhoea.

They are also likely to have a low birth weight and developmental issues.

How many children are affected overall?

In the last decade, over 12,000 babies were born nationally with withdrawal symptoms, 2,309 of whom were born showing symptoms of NAS, according to the NHS Trusts which chose to respond.

Numbers were at their worst between 2014 and 2015 at 510 or an average of 10 cases a week, however, they did dip to 396 between 2016 and 2017.

Whilst not every Trust responded to the Freedom of information request by the Lib Dems, out of those that did, 103 were treated for the effects of heroin withdrawal, 128 for heroin substitute methadone, 65 were found to have cocaine in their bodies and 25 had cannabis in theirs.

Other drugs listed as those found in babies included codeine and fentanyl and since not all the data has been provided, it is likely the numbers will be even higher.

What other risks are there?

Illicit drug use is also associated with an increased risk of child abuse and neglect and exposure to such incidents and children who born with NAS also have a higher chance of drug misuse in their adult life, according to Dr Graeme Scobbie, Public Health Advisor for the NHS.

How can this be treated?

In some cases, children are weaned off drugs by being given opiates but those who do not need medication to control NAS may still be kept in hospital for up to a week at a time when the NHS is already being stretched.

In many cases, the babies are given to family members to care for or taken into care if necessary, however, some experts believe the outcomes would be better if both the mother and baby are allowed to detox together.

Scotland became the first country in the world to launch a national naloxone programme in April 2011 after investing over £630 million to tackle alcohol and drug abuse since 2008. Out of the total, £574 million is being provided by the NHS boards to alcohol and drug partnerships for investment into prevention, treatment and recovery services.

Between December 2013 and 2015, 65% of children left the programme in the care of their mother, who was drug and alcohol-free and the rest of the country has since followed suit.

Top Videos of the Day

Alex-Cole Hamilton, Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Central, however, has attacked the Scottish Government for cutting funding to drug and alcohol partnerships by more than 20% and labelled the figures "heartbreaking".

Whilst programmes do differ slightly, a typical residency would involve mothers following a strict rehabilitation plan including daily counselling sessions and regular medical examinations and check-ups from social services.

It costs roughly £1,500 per week to send a baby and its mother to such centres and outside of Scotland, funding for places is usually arranged via joint agreements between adult addiction and children's social care services.

However, there are concerns that removing children and their mothers from the community entirely will not solve the problem as the site of the programmes doesn't reflect real life and mothers returning to their communities could easily relapse after being accustomed to 24/7 care.

Those who work with the mothers and children in question say that the majority of parents who they deal with come from a disadvantaged socio-economy background, with most cases involving an abuse of drugs like heroin and cocaine.