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Crack babies: The New York Times chronicles public hysteria over a 1980s 'crisis'

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Crack Babies NYT
Crack Babies NYT

Throughout the 1980s, the media frequently covered crack cocaine's spread across the US. In particular, they often called out the devastating, lifelong effects the drug could have on pregnant mothers and their newborn infants. Mental retardation would be rampant, schools would be overrun with children who constantly struggled to keep up. And these fears extended beyond the press into the public mindset at large; one US congressman described so-called "crack babies" as "the most expensive babies ever born" on account of the resources they'd inevitably demand from social services and other government programs.

Except, as you'll see in The New York Times video report above, things never quite panned out that way. Nearly three decades on, many people born in the crack baby era have managed to live perfectly normal lives. The drug no doubt contributed to some of the ill effects seen in newborns, but other substances (i.e. alcohol) and social issues likely didn't receive as much attention as they should have thanks to a largely overblown "crisis."