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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 March, 2004, 20:42 GMT
'Pay addicts not to have children'
Drug injection
The professor has called for action on addicted parents
Women drug addicts should be paid to take contraception to stop them having children, according to a drugs expert.

Professor Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said there was a crisis in meeting the needs of children born to drug using mothers.

The professor has called for a system where women are paid to take long-term contraception to prevent pregnancies.

Campaign group Scotland Against Drugs called for more support services and warned against infringing human rights.

Prof McKeganey surveyed 1,000 drug users and found that more than 60% of addicted mothers and 85% of addicted fathers no longer looked after their children.

He said the situation must change and blamed the "chaotic lifestyles" of addicts for the problem and its effects on children.

Professor Neil McKeganey
We now have such a crisis in Scotland that we ought to give active consideration to paying female drug users to take long-term contraception
Professor Neil McKeganey
Centre for Drug Misuse Research
His research suggests that more than 50,000 children in Scotland have been exposed to drug addiction at home.

It found a number had even woken up to find their parents had died from an overdose while others had had their Christmas presents sold to pay for drugs.

"It does look as if, in many instances, female drug users are becoming pregnant not because they want to but because of the sheer chaos of their lifestyle," he said.

He said that in parts of the United States, female drug users were given government cash to take long-term contraception, such as injections.

And he warned: "We now have such a crisis in Scotland that we ought to give active consideration to paying female drug users to take long-term contraception."

'Draconian measure'

Professor McKeganey also suggested that drug addicts who were already parents could be given a year to kick the habit or face the prospect of having their children put up for adoption.

Scotland Against Drugs said it recognised there was a problem but said children in these situations must be supported.

This is social engineering on a massive scale and it's completely unacceptable
Peter Kearney
Catholic Church spokesman
It has called on more education and help for mothers and improved services for looking after their children.

Director Alistair Ramsey said: "I think it's a bit Draconian to suggest that contraception injections should be an option when it's not known in advance whether the recipient woman would be a good or a bad parent."

Catholic Church spokesman Peter Kearney said: "If you are going to sterilise drug-addicted women, why stop there? Why not sterilise alcoholics?

"This is social engineering on a massive scale and it's completely unacceptable."

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said it was well aware of the risks to the children of drug using parents.

He said: "We believe that the needs of the child should be paramount and have published guidelines for service providers entitled Getting our Priorities Right.

"Along with other UK departments, we are currently considering our response to the Hidden Harm report on the children of drug using parents."

BBC Scotland's Alexandra Mackenzie
"It's a policy that's been implimented in America"

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