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Study : "Crack Babies" Not Doomed
Source: UPI

TORONTO, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Exposure to cocaine and other drugs in the womb has virtually no effect on early childhood development, University of Buffalo researchers said Friday.

So-called "crack babies'' are not doomed, LeAdelle Phelps, director of school psychology program at the State University of New York at Buffalo, told United Press International. Phelps matched 20 children whose mothers used drugs to 20 unexposed children of the same sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status and found no differences in social skills, behavior or reasoning abilities.

"By the time these children are two years old there is no evidence that there is any effect on their development,'' Phelps said. "We didn't find any social problems arising by the time the children were 5 years old.'' Previous studies have suggested social problems arise with "crack babies'' as they mature. In fact, in most instances, the children who were exposed to cocaine scored higher on a battery of psychological tests than did the students who were never exposed to cocaine or other illegal drugs during pregnancy.

"That doesn't mean cocaine is good for babies,'' Phelps said. She said it may reflect the fact that these babies who are exposed to cocaine are later removed from the custody of their mothers and are often raised by grandparents who may help the young children in areas of verbalization skills. Phelps said that previous studies which found problems in babies exposed to drugs in the womb may in fact have caused by factors other than cocaine use. Exposure "is often exacerbated by myriad socioeconomic and environmental factors which place children at considerable risk for developmental and psycho educational difficulties, ''she said.

But when Phelps carefully matched the two groups, developmental differences disappeared. "All of the developmental afflictions frequently linked with intrauterine drug exposure occurred as frequently or more frequently in the nondrug exposed group as in the cocaine exposed group.'' ---