Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Crusaders and Enemies (The Prequel)

Remember what I was saying yesterday about how sometimes lawmakers ride a wave of outrage about something that doesn't exist in an effort to enact even more numerous and draconian drug laws?

When I wrote that, I had no idea that the New York Times would have an article about, perhaps, the all time champ of irrational drug war frenzy - the epidemic of "crack babies" back in the 1980s and 1990s. Yeah, well, it never actually existed:

When the use of crack cocaine became a nationwide epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, there were widespread fears that prenatal exposure to the drug would produce a generation of severely damaged children. Newspapers carried headlines like 'Cocaine: A Vicious Assault on a Child,' 'Crack’s Toll Among Babies: A Joyless View' and 'Studies: Future Bleak for Crack Babies.'

But now researchers are systematically following children who were exposed to cocaine before birth, and their findings suggest that the encouraging stories of Ms. H.’s daughters are anything but unusual. So far, these scientists say, the long-term effects of such exposure on children’s brain development and behavior appear relatively small.
It's not that cocaine is a good thing to take while pregnant - Dr. Spock surely is not going to start recommending it - but you have to keep things in perspective:
Cocaine is undoubtedly bad for the fetus. But experts say its effects are less severe than those of alcohol and are comparable to those of tobacco — two legal substances that are used much more often by pregnant women, despite health warnings.

Surveys by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2006 and 2007 found that 5.2 percent of pregnant women reported using any illicit drug, compared with 11.6 percent for alcohol and 16.4 percent for tobacco.

'The argument is not that it’s O.K. to use cocaine in pregnancy, any more than it’s O.K. to smoke cigarettes in pregnancy,' said Dr. Deborah A. Frank, a pediatrician at Boston University. 'Neither drug is good for anybody.'
So, the legal drugs are more harmful. Imagine that. Your Drug War dollars at work.

1 comment:

unsilentmajority said...

We're all casualties of the drug war.