New Report: Poverty Is Worse for Children than Gestational Cocaine Exposure

Posted by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia on July 14, 2014

Poverty Is Worse for Children than Gestational Cocaine Exposure
Hallam Hurt, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

In the 1980s, cocaine use by expectant mothers reached near epidemic proportions. In Philadelphia, one in six pregnant women had a history of cocaine use or had cocaine in her urine. Users were more likely than non-users to be African American, poor, and to have received scant prenatal care. Deleterious effects of cocaine use on pregnancy were documented, with animal studies suggesting adverse effects on uterine blood flow and fetal oxygenation.

Lay groups and professionals alike prepared for a generation of severely affected newborns. Mariah Blake of the Columbia Journalism Review chronicled some of these stories: including Charles Krauthammer declaring that these children would face a “life of certain suffering, of probable deviance, of permanent inferiority,” and a National Institute on Drug Abuse research psychologist suggesting that “crack was interfering with the central core of what it is to be human.” The public outcry against cocaine-using women was deafening, but little attention was paid to the socioeconomic challenges faced by many of these same women.

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