Crack Babies An ‘Overblown’ Scare, Study Reveals

The 1980s scare involving crack babies was overblown, new research shows, and initial concerns about long term effects on both children born to mothers using crack cocaine as well as society as a whole were overestimated, studies reveal.

The panic of crack babies, overblown by frenzied media reports, was sparked after the highly addictive and more accessible form of cocaine hit streets in the 80s.

“Crack babies” became a scare following the arrival of crack in American cities, and three decades ago dire predictions about a generation of “damaged” children prompted widespread fear of a societal ripple effect — concern that did not ultimately pan out to a palpable effect.

The New York Times recently profiled the overblown crack babies scare thirty years on, noting:

“Those predictions turned out to be wrong. This supposed epidemic — one television reporter talks of a 500 percent increase in damaged babies — was kicked off by a study of just 23 infants that the lead researcher now says was blown out of proportion. And the shocking symptoms — like tremors and low birth weight — are not particular to cocaine-exposed babies, pediatric researchers say; they can be seen in many premature newborns.”

The Times goes on to say that the crack babies scare was overblown in contrast to other substance abuse concerns as well — noting that fetal alcohol syndrome still poses a larger threat to the quality of life for affected infants.

Ultimately, the crack babies scare was reviewed across 27 studies involving more than 5,000 babies conducted by University of Maryland pediatrics researcher Maureen Black, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study on the overblown issue of crack babies concluded that “it is now well documented that scientific reports in the 1980s were exaggerated and incorrect in their portrayal of children exposed to cocaine in utero as irreparably damaged.”

Many of the symptoms in the crack babies scare were later attributed to premature birth rather than exposure to crack cocaine.