This ties in with another study years ago that found out the problems with crack babies weren’t attributable to the drug, but to the malnutrition that resulted when pregnant drug addicts traded food for drugs. As I recall, that study also found that children who were given remedial nutritional support from birth showed no long-term effects:
The researchers consistently found no significant differences between the cocaine-exposed children and the controls. At age 4, for instance, the average IQ of the cocaine-exposed children was 79.0 and the average IQ for the nonexposed children was 81.9. Both numbers are well below the average of 90 to 109 for U.S. children in the same age group. When it came to school readiness at age 6, about 25 percent of children in each group scored in the abnormal range on tests for math and letter and word recognition.
“We went looking for the effects of cocaine,” Hurt said. But after a time “we began to ask, ‘Was there something else going on?’ ”
While the cocaine-exposed children and a group of nonexposed controls performed about the same on tests, both groups lagged on developmental and intellectual measures compared to the norm. Hurt and her team began to think the “something else” was poverty.
As the children grew, the researchers did many evaluations to tease out environmental factors that could be affecting their development. On the upside, they found that children being raised in a nurturing home – measured by such factors as caregiver warmth and affection and language stimulation – were doing better than kids in a less nurturing home. On the downside, they found that 81 percent of the children had seen someone arrested; 74 percent had heard gunshots; 35 percent had seen someone get shot; and 19 percent had seen a dead body outside – and the kids were only 7 years old at the time. Those children who reported a high exposure to violence were likelier to show signs of depression and anxiety and to have lower self-esteem.
More recently, the team did MRI scans on the participants’ brains. Some research has suggested that gestational cocaine exposure can affect brain development, especially the dopamine system, which in turn can harm cognitive function. An area of concern is “executive functioning,” a set of skills involved in planning, problem-solving, and working memory.
The investigators found one brain area linked to attention skills that differed between exposed and nonexposed children, but they could not find any clinically significant effect on behavioral tests of attention skills.
Drug use did not differ between the exposed and nonexposed participants as young adults. About 42 percent used marijuana and three tested positive for cocaine one time each.
The team has kept tabs on 110 of the 224 children originally in the study. Of the 110, two are dead – one shot in a bar and another in a drive-by shooting – three are in prison, six graduated from college, and six more are on track to graduate. There have been 60 children born to the 110 participants.
The years of tracking kids have led Hurt to a conclusion she didn’t see coming.
“Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine,” Hurt said at her May lecture.
One thought on “Crack babies”
Poverty. Those with much have it at the expense of those with nothing. Wealth redistribution would solve most of this.
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