As part of a new National Drugs Strategy, midwives who have special training in addiction services will be hired to help babies born with alcohol addictions and their mothers.
Seven additional drug-liaison midwives will be hired by the State to support pregnant women with alcohol dependency, according to BreakingNews.ie.
The move was announced yesterday along with other measures which aim to shift the focus on drug addiction from a crime perspective to a health perspective.
The new strategy entitled “Reducing Harm- Supporting Recovery- A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025” takes a more compassionate view than previous measures.
The strategy aims to move away from criminalising drug addicts and instead offers them help to deal with their problems.
It also includes more education and awareness for children about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.
Health Minister Simon Harris said this could prevent young people developing addictions in the future. "Preventing the use of drugs and alcohol at a young age reduces the risk of a young person developing a drug problem later in life," he said.
"This strategy aims to promote the use of evidence-based integrated education and prevention programmes that give young people the skills and the confidence to make healthier lifestyle choices."
Other measures to tackle addiction issues in young people include the HSE hiring two counsellors for young people under 18 who are dealing with addiction issues and a new targeted youth services scheme for young people at risk of substance misuse in socially and economically disadvantaged communities;
The news comes after findings earlier this year that Irish women are ranked first in the world for drinking during pregnancy.
A global study found that over 60 percent of Irish births have evidence of alcohol consumption with between 20 percent and 80 percent of women choosing to drink during their pregnancy.
The study conducted by Lancet Global Health Journal monitored over 3,500 women on Irish maternal records from 1990 until 2011 and linked the number of women drinking with that of the rate of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Around 600 babies with FAS are born in Ireland every year, according to medical experts.
Dr Mary T. O’ Mahony warned of the dangers of FAS while giving a presentation on the subject at the Irish Medical Organisation’s AGM in Galway earlier this year.
“The consequences are induced brain damage which is permanent and is associated with physical, mental, educational, social and behavioural difficulties.”
She warned that drinking alcohol while pregnant has severe repercussions for both the individual and society, with many children who have FAS ending up in foster care and adults with FAS ending up in jail.