So…Crack Doesn’t Actually Affect Crack Babies?

1989, during the height of the crack epidemic in Philadelphia, one in six babies delivered at city hospitals were born to mothers who tested positive for cocaine. Conventional wisdom and anecdotal evidence dictated that so-called “crack babies” would be mentally and physically impaired compared to other infants. So that year, doctors at Einstein Hospital (and later, CHOP) sought to find out the effect of crack cocaine in the womb, and put together a study that would track 224 babies born to crack-addicted mothers between then and this year. The study was one of the largest and longest-running ever conducted on the subject. The results? Not quite what they expected.

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.

So why did the subjects of the study and the control group have low IQs? Well, this leads to the study’s most significant finding: Poverty was a much “more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine.” [Inquirer]