What Is A Crack Baby

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What is a crack baby? “Crack baby” is a repulsive term, loaded with the worst stereotypes about addiction and the implications. In fact, it isn’t used medically. The correct phrase is “prenatal cocaine exposure.”

What is a crack baby? The idea of a low-birthrate baby, addicted to crack while still in the womb, goes back to the late 80s and 90s, when smokable cocaine (crack) was on the rise. It reflects two common consequences of babies born to crack cocaine abusing mothers – premature birth and poor nutrition. Either of these factors will give rise to a very small, fragile baby with many health problems. What isn’t the case, however, is that this type of birth necessarily has life-long consequences. But the myth endures.

An interview on NPR looking at what is a crack baby, Crack Babies: Twenty Years Later, with a psychiatrist involved in addiction issues tells us that the hype about addicted babies and brain damage just hasn’t played out. According to Dr. Bell, “The concern since crack is a stimulant - cocaine is a stimulant - was that these areas in the brain that dealt with the issue of stimulation like attention deficit disorder or even bipolar disorder might be overly activated or somehow distorted while the baby's brain was developing. So there were all these really silly ideas about hyper aggressiveness, attention deficit disorder, manic depressive disorder in these children.”

What is a crack baby? The logic seemed to follow the example of what alcohol does to the unborn and the very real brain damage that can result with fetal alcohol syndrome. However, it hasn’t played out that way for the so-called “crack babies.” Instead, deficits parallel the population at large and those born in similar socio-economic strata. Once a child survives a possibly premature birth, it then comes down to the situation they are raised in. The fact that their mother was using crack during the pregnancy is overshadowed by other factors.

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