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Early Reports on 'Crack Babies' Drew Premature Conclusions


April 1993

The notion that infants exposed in utero to cocaine are irreparably harmed is being reconsidered as evidence mounts that cocaine exposure alone is unlikely to predict permanent neurobehavioral deficits (Richard Karel, "Crack Babies: Earlier Reports Drew Premature Conclusions," Psychiatric News, 3/19/93, p. 9).

A comprehensive story in the March 19 issue of Psychiatric News reviewed studies published over the past several years that undermine the existence of the so-called 'crack baby' syndrome. Experts interviewed for the story noted that drug use during pregnancy is a serious risk factor, but infants may do well if subjected to a positive environment after birth, and if other risk factors, such as alcohol and other drug use, and poor diet, were not present during pregnancy.

A cautiously optimistic tone was sounded by Mohammad Shafii, M.D., chair of the American Psychiatric Association's Council on Children, Adolescents, and Their Families. "It is more hopeful based on the recent data," said Shafii. "One needs to be cautious but optimistic. The jury is still out. There needs to be longitudinal follow-up from early childhood into early adolescence."