Crack Babies Long Term Effects

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This article looks at crack babies long term effects. What a derogatory term that is. “Crack baby” is loaded with connotations. It immediately gives us a picture of an irredeemably addicted mother and a permanently flawed child, destined for nothing more than abject failure. Of course, like many catchy phrases coined by the media, the reality is much different than this.

The term was first popularized after a study done in 1985 showed that about 10% of women had used some form of illicit drug during their pregnancies. Not crack, nor even just cocaine, but any illicit substance. In fact, crack wasn’t mentioned in the study – however powdered cocaine was. And somehow this made its way into news reports as a “crack baby” epidemic.

The medically accepted term is Prenatal Cocaine Exposure (PCE). The form of the cocaine doesn’t matter as long as the baby is born alive. Certainly, crack cocaine or injected cocaine is more likely to lead to an overdose and death of the fetus, but the form no longer matters once the infant is born. In this framing, there really is no such thing as a crack baby – it’s just a baby exposed to cocaine during the pregnancy, but there are real crack babies long term effects.

Are there consequences, crack babies long term effects? Yes, most definitely. Most show up at or near delivery. These include premature births and all the associated problems as well as a slowing in development. It’s the latter that was investigated and suspected of causing crack babies long term effects. The question was how these poor infants might have permanent changes in their systems that would lead to crack babies long term effects later.

The good news is there doesn’t seem to be a clear outcome – PCE infants eventually catch up to their non-exposed peers. In fact, they are more similar to other preemies than not. There is a high risk at birth and the damage done may be so severe that the infant doesn’t survive. But studies show, among other things, that the epidemic of poorly functioning adults who were born after exposure to cocaine has not appeared. One did show a 3 point lowering of IQ on average – arguably insignificant when IQ varies by as much as 10 points for the same person between tests.

Currently the best look at what crack babies long term effects may occur come from animal models. Predictions are that (depending on level of exposure) PCE may cause some impairment of what is known as “executive brain function” – the ability to form realistic plans and follow through consistently.

The media inspired panic of crack babies didn’t pan out in the end. It’s not that there is nothing there, but the “something” is on par with getting good prenatal care and avoiding toxins – cocaine included, but also alcohol, smoking and a laundry list of substances. Why there hasn’t been a media storm about “heroin babies” is a mystery. After all, the effects of opiate addiction on infants is an ongoing and clear problem.

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