The Crack Baby Epidemic That Wasn’t

Retro Report re-reports old stories, “connecting the dots from yesterday to today, correcting the record and providing a permanent living library where viewers can gain new insight into the events that shaped their lives.” The site’s latest video focuses on the alleged crack baby epidemic in the 1980s:

Clay Dillow summarizes key points:

How did science get it so wrong? The primary study behind the “crack baby” epidemic scare involved just 23 infants–a sample set too small to be meaningful. It also included only infants rather than adults who had been exposed to crack as infants. Later studies conducted on adults who had been prenatally exposed to crack often showed very small changes in their brains rather than the sweeping deficiencies predicted by the science of the time. It’s a lesson in what happens when a misreading of the data leads to a publicly accepted narrative, especially one that feeds on society’s collective fears about the future.

TNC adds:

It is hard to ignore the effects of racism here. There is a time-honored American tradition of turning minorities into the vessel for all the country’s vices — as if adultery, murder, idleness and all other manner of sin would disappear with us. This is especially true in the realm of drugs.