The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that prenatal cocaine exposure could cause behavioral and learning problems, a media maelstrom over "crack babies" ensued. A former director of the National Center on Child Abuse called them the "bio-underclass." In 1989, columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, "Theirs will be a life of certain suffering, of probably deviance, of permanent inferiority."
As it turns out, a slew of more rigorous studies have found no scientific basis for such claims. There is evidence that cocaine use increases the chance of spontaneous miscarriage or a low-birth-weight baby. But any later deficits were caused not by crack but by lack of prenatal care, poverty, and malnutrition. Doctors argue that the stigma of being a crack baby does more damage than the crack exposure.
Now a new specter is arising: the "meth baby." This time, doctors seem to have learned a lesson. A group of 96 physicians have circulated a statement proclaiming, "The use of stigmatizing terms, such as "ice babies" and "meth babies," lacks scientific validity and should not be used."
Josie Glausiusz looks at the Crack Kid Myth.
Read about the forest fire of brain damage caused by methamphetamine use.