The Crack Baby Scare: From Faulty Science to Media Panic
Easy to transport, highly addictive and sometimes deadly, crack cocaine ripped through the 1980s like a bullet, a headline-maker that seemed to destroy lives at every turn. But the symbol of that destruction was not the tiny crack vials littering the streets or the addicts crouching in corners. The poster child for America’s drug epidemic was a jittery infant whom commentators said was destined to a lifetime of pain and suffering through no fault of its own.
The “crack baby” represented the Pandora’s box that cocaine had become. But how did these tiny infants gain such status and was it justified?
In this Retro Report we look at the story of these children from the perspective of those in the eye of the storm — tracing the trajectory from the small 1985 medical study that first raised the alarm, through the drumbeat of media coverage that kept the story alive, to, decades later, when a cocaine-exposed research subject told us her own surprising life story.
More Like This
The Domestic Violence Case That Turned Outrage Into Action
The ‘Burning Bed’ killing put domestic violence in the headlines.
Combating the Myth of the Superpredator
In the 1990s, a handful of researchers inspired panic with a dire but flawed prediction: the imminent arrival of a new breed of “superpredators.”
The Misunderstood McDonald's Hot Coffee Lawsuit
Stella Liebeck was vilified when she was awarded millions after spilling McDonald's coffee in her lap. Her complaint sounded frivolous. But the facts told another story.
How Fear of the Measles Vaccine Took Hold
Skepticism and fear surrounding vaccines were fed by a flawed study done in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism. The study was quickly discredited, we’re still dealing with the repercussions.