The term “crack baby” came about in the 1980’s and 90’s when large numbers of women on crack and cocaine were having babies. Public view at the time was that these babies were born addicted, had to go through withdrawal symptoms, and faced a lifetime of suffering and inferiority. But after seeing these children grow up and develop over the last 20 years, researchers have found that those first assumptions were not correct.
The Effects of Environment
Crack became an epidemic in the late 80’s and early 90’s. During their drug addiction, many pregnant women had little regard for the developing babies that they were carrying. In 1991, there were 22,000 babies left in hospitals across the country by parents who couldn’t or did not want to care for them. Many of these were crack babies. In many ways, these babies were the lucky ones. Current research shows that many of these babies that were abandoned and were taken in or adopted by loving families grew up to live an almost normal life. The lasting effects of cocaine exposure during development are not so severe as once thought, it turns out. Some of the negative effects can actually be made up for by being brought up in a good environment.
The future was the bleakest for those children that were raised by their crack-addicted parent. Poverty, neglect, abuse, poor schooling, and lack of nutrition and health care are the major reasons some crack babies have struggled as they get older.
Effects of Crack and Drugs
This is not to say that crack doesn’t have a negative impact on a developing fetus. It does. These babies are often born prematurely, have low birth weight, and have a small head size. Many have trouble focusing, are diagnosed with ADHD, may have cerebral palsy, and may show defiant behavior. But there is little evidence to support the belief that crack babies are brain damaged or more likely to be involved with crime or violence as they get older.
Some researchers have compared crack-exposed babies to those exposed to tobacco; however, we have to be careful not to downplay the consequences of any substance on a developing fetus. A 2007 study done by the Department of Health and Human Services found that 5.2% of pregnant women reported using illicit drugs, 11.6% used alcohol, and 16.4% used tobacco. All of these substances have a potentially negative impact on the baby, and it is impossible to predict what or how severe the lasting effects will be. Parents that are addicted to drugs or alcohol should get help immediately, in order to ensure the best outlook for their child’s future.