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'Crack baby' study ends with unexpected but clear result
July 22, 2013 6:42 PM   Subscribe

"Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than gestational exposure to cocaine."

"We went looking for the effects of cocaine," Hurt said. But after a time "we began to ask, 'Was there something else going on?' "

While the cocaine-exposed children and a group of nonexposed controls performed about the same on tests, both groups lagged on developmental and intellectual measures compared to the norm. Hurt and her team began to think the "something else" was poverty.
posted by Orinda (89 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some people might not have expected this result, but I consider it obvious.
posted by localroger at 6:49 PM on July 22, 2013 [28 favorites]


When I read this last night I shouted so loud I scared the cats: I KNOW IT IS IMPORTANT TO DO THE SCIENCE BUT DUH!
posted by rtha at 6:50 PM on July 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is never going to penetrate the public consciousness. The concept of the "crack baby" -- the tragic result of terrible crack-smoking inner-city mothers -- will be with us forever, as surely as the "Thug Travyon" character created by the Zimmerman defense lawyers.

Racism will not yield to reality.
posted by edheil at 6:50 PM on July 22, 2013 [38 favorites]


Sleeping in your parka indoors isn't normal. But on Poverty it is.

POVERTY- NOT EVEN ONCE.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:52 PM on July 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


The problem is that we're paying for welfare recipients to buy luxury items like parkas, of course.
posted by thelonius at 6:53 PM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Aw, crap. Now we're supposed to fight *poverty*?
posted by uosuaq at 7:03 PM on July 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


The thing that I was most surprised about when reading through this was that there was never any actual evidence to support the claims about so-called 'crack babies' (a typical insult, and common-sense idea while I was growing up with D.A.R.E. the Muppet Babies, and Barabara Bush teaching me that the first puff of marijuana would lead me to a life of ruin).

I do wonder how the United States Government would respond to a 'just say no to poverty' campaign.
posted by codacorolla at 7:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


" they found that 81 percent of the children had seen someone arrested; 74 percent had heard gunshots; 35 percent had seen someone get shot; and 19 percent had seen a dead body outside - and the kids were only 7 years old at the time."

there's... not really much to say when you see numbers like that.
posted by gaspode at 7:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [97 favorites]


I would say that we should declare war on poverty but it seems that whatever we declare war on these days seems to win.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


The team has kept tabs on 110 of the 224 children originally in the study. Of the 110, two are dead - one shot in a bar and another in a drive-by shooting - three are in prison, six graduated from college, and six more are on track to graduate. There have been 60 children born to the 110 participants.

And all of these young men and women were born between 1989 and 1992.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:08 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This recent NY Times 'Retro Report' goes over some of the same very interesting ground. It is striking how Doctor Ira Chasnoff became an instant media star due to starting this research, and how difficult it was for him to let go of the topic, even after it must have been clear to him that the thing that had made him famous was not actually a thing at all. The phenomenon was more about telling white America what it wanted to hear about black people than about anything else...
posted by A Fine Mess at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aw, crap. Now we're supposed to fight *poverty*?

Yes. We apparently plan to defeat it by putting all the poor people in prison.

That'll show 'em.
posted by jaguar at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


We would prefer to spend millions on research studying the minutiae of the effects of poverty, rather than doing something about it.

In the last Eugene Jarecki documentary about the drug war, the last shocking stat I heard was that whites use crack cocaine just as much as blacks. In all of my years I didnt expect that.
posted by lslelel at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bees use it
Bears use it
Even Canadian mayors use it!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yep, the War on Drugs was meant to replace the War on Poverty with something less winnable but much more popular. Duh.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:22 PM on July 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


codacorolla: "I do wonder how the United States Government would respond to a 'just say no to poverty' campaign."

My guess is with targeted assassinations on those running the campaign. OK, maybe that wouldn't be the U.S. government's first response, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be much further down the list.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:23 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised that this outcome wasn't obvious. I'm even more surprised that a huge, huge result like finding that children raised in poverty have a measured IQ of around 80 isn't cause for headlines and collective soul-searching.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:28 PM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


There have been a lot of studies that I've seen indicating this for a long time-- I'm surprised this is just now getting publicity-- FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Goodness me-- but ironically the solution will still probably wind up being about studying poor peoples bad poor people genes and how genetic difference is the cause of inferior strains of human that need to be corrected.

Instead of the obvious that adversity/poverty/trauma affects biological functioning even across generations. Deal with the obvious for frucks sake!
posted by xarnop at 7:28 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


A couple of years ago, I came across an article on the media hysteria about so-called "crack babies" and a series of articles written by teens who had been born addicted to crack (an example - also previously). I had really believed the propaganda that crack caused brain damage to children; after all, excessive alcohol can cause very serious damage. But they were pointing out that - unlike alcohol - the effects of crack had been exaggerated, but the label itself had a serious effect on their lives.
posted by jb at 7:28 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, fetal alcohol syndrome is very real, and booze is still not illegal.
posted by empath at 7:31 PM on July 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


Aw, crap. Now we're supposed to fight *poverty*?

LBJ tried in the 60s. If only we put as much into that war as we did fighting the War on Drugs™.
posted by Talez at 7:35 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sadly, the war on poverty is not as profitable as the war on drugs.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:38 PM on July 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


About LBJ's War on Poverty, I like to quote a famous Southern preacher:

I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America [against poverty]. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
posted by absalom at 7:40 PM on July 22, 2013 [61 favorites]


Or: Metaphorical War abandoned in order to wage Actual War.
posted by absalom at 7:41 PM on July 22, 2013


Poverty is a more powerful influence on the outcome of inner-city children than...

Basically everything. The schools you go to, the neighborhood to live in, the marital status of your parents, your religious background, etc.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:43 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Reagan takes away the dreams in every baby's heart and replaces it with a nightmare."

That said, Crack sucks, despite the hysteria, of course, not because of it... well... because of it, too, we get our lovely War on Drugs funded even more locking more black people up with racist stereotypes.

One of my personal heroes, Huey Newton, ended up falling too far down the crack well, and I think the rise of crack ended up hurting a lot of potential revolutionary movement within the black community.
posted by symbioid at 7:46 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want more information on crack (including the fact that "crack babies" never existed) I highly recommend Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice by Craig Reinarman and Harry Levine. Plus a bonus article from them from 2004, deconstructing the crack baby myth, and a few other myths about crack.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:46 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


We have yet to find a drug that is more harmful to society than the laws against it.
posted by spaltavian at 7:49 PM on July 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


cigarettes?
posted by idiopath at 7:58 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


cigarettes?

Tobacco is legal. Though I doubt prohibition would be any more successful than for anything else.
posted by spaltavian at 8:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hate how "crack baby" became this lulzy edgy term. . Whistling past the graveyard of the American dream.
posted by lordaych at 8:12 PM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Tobacco is legal. Though I doubt prohibition would be any more successful than for anything else.

It's still highly regulated. And that regulation has (at least in part) provably reduced its impacts on non-smokers, and reduced the incidence of smoking - see for example, the impact of price increases on the incidence of smoking in Australia.

What would you consider to be the harms of the regulation? Unless you are talking specifically about the harms of prohibition.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:12 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is never going to penetrate the public consciousness.

So let's all give up. BLEAH.
posted by JHarris at 8:13 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metaphorical war... That'd be the undeclared "war" in Vietnam part of the undeclared "cold war" on Russia? My dad grew up in the 70s and it's amazing how quickly he shifted from "we had to do that because communism!" to "fuck that unnecessary war, the one I served in (Desert Storm) and every one since" after EYB (eight years of Bush, I move to formally abbreviate henceforth)
posted by lordaych at 8:19 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What would you consider to be the harms of the regulation? Unless you are talking specifically about the harms of prohibition.

I am specifically talking about prohibition; though it's possible regulations can also cross the harm threshold if it criminalizes individual behavior or creates a significant black market.
posted by spaltavian at 8:19 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've been trying to explain epigenetics forever goodness please let it penetrate the public consciousness please oh please so we can start creating sane policies for child development and human health and family access to resources?
(I'm not necessarily the best person to explain epigenetics but I read a lot of good research about it and it needs to start getting into discussions about how to create healthy families and child development in more ways than just labeling a quarter of the population mentally ill and medicating everyone until they shut up about how shitty things are.)
posted by xarnop at 8:20 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I figured this after reading The Corner, which is like a crash course in Ways We Have Failed American Children.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:27 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Grover Norquist says he wants to shrink government so that it can drown in a bath tub. It's kind of weird really to openly espouse not only small government but the violent death of government, but it makes sense if you assume that a) he's anarcho-libertarian (not likely), b) by "drown" he doesn't mean to death, just in a strong arm, waterboarding sense to keep its leash short, or c) the "government" he wants to shrink is the literal institution of government, and the one he wants to "drown" is "we the people." I can't believe how horribly divorced most suburban white folks are from poverty. I grew up poor in a black neighborhood where the "down a peg" insults like "crack baby" and "Jerry's kids" (as in disabled kids featured in Jerry Lewis telethons) were bandied about quite a bit; there was a ton of effort made to play up the misfortune of others but everyone was pretty poor and it's a terribly poor area to this day.

The most oblivious or dismissive of this shitty situation are essentially socioeconomic Calvinists when you think about it. It's like the old Hindu caste system except you pull yourself up by the bootstraps or change colors in order to move up.
posted by lordaych at 8:31 PM on July 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


The coworkers that I have/had who will not be swayed at all by this will be able to shut it out, because they will say that just like crack baby syndrome, kids living in poverty is the fault of the parents (who are probably just all crack smokers anyway). Why should their tax dollars go towards helping other people's kids?

That is prejudiced against these coworkers, but I've heard it too many times to reports similar to this....they are similarly amazed that I do not revolt against paying school taxes 'for their kids' when I don't have kids myself. I guess they're consistent, at least.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:35 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just move, or go back to Africa. And why don't the poor desert negroes in Africa just move if it's so hard to live there? I'm pretty sure I've heard the same person express all three sentiments over the course of several conversations but I can't remember who, because it might be multiple people...
posted by lordaych at 8:38 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


socioeconomic Calvinists

that is perfect
posted by thelonius at 8:40 PM on July 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


One of my personal heroes, Huey Newton, ended up falling too far down the crack well, and I think the rise of crack ended up hurting a lot of potential revolutionary movement within the black community.

Quite.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:44 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I should note that I'm probably bring race into this as much as I am because of my experiences in theing first half of my life living in a "rough" neighborhood, and the second half in a starkly contrasted world where there's an implied undercurrent of seeing poverty that works like this: most poor white people are just temporarily poor while moving on up - I ate ramen in college, I WAS POOR TEE-HEE, some are like black people but racist unlike us (we call them white trash) and then poor black people are just hopeless doomed destroyers of their own fate and shouldn't be paid mind. Poor Mexicans are very affordable labor and poorz of other nationalities are cute and determined and funny sometimes!

I saw plenty of crack in the hood and it was a graveyard whistled by daily, dark as fuck and laughed about. Heard a husband and wife fighting about grocery money spent on crack as I camped out in my backyard under the stars. Two middle class jobs ago my boss showed me how to toot blow like a pro and let me say it was better but the setting was also nicer (a high rise office)
posted by lordaych at 8:53 PM on July 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sys Rq: "One of my personal heroes, Huey Newton, ended up falling too far down the crack well, and I think the rise of crack ended up hurting a lot of potential revolutionary movement within the black community.

Quite.
"

I was going to go into an aside on that, but I think it's a lot more complex than I wanted to deal with - but glad you posted the link, because it is, I think, quite relevant to the current War on Drugs and Prison-Industrial setup we got going on in the US.
posted by symbioid at 8:57 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


We would prefer to spend millions on research studying the minutiae of the effects of poverty, rather than doing something about it.

I don't think it's a bad thing to spend millions on research that should inform billions of spending.
posted by grouse at 8:58 PM on July 22, 2013 [33 favorites]


grouse- May it be so.
posted by xarnop at 8:59 PM on July 22, 2013


I'm surprised that this outcome wasn't obvious

In order to be science, you still have to test the obvious stuff. That's just how it works. It's all well and good to talk about "Well duh" whenever science happens to agree with what we originally thought, but if we just took obvious stuff on faith we'd still be thinking that light either behaved like a wave or a particle. Not like both. Plus, when it comes to social theory, there's a huge range of obvious from "poverty has a huge impact" to "well if they had made better choices they wouldn't be in jail." Hell, if the scientists hadn't tested their obvious hypothesis that gestational exposure to crack was a huge and negative factor in the lives of children, then we wouldn't have (more) proof that poverty is a much larger and negative factor.

So now, because they took the time to try and prove what they thought was obvious, we have a report that could help inform policy to make things better for future children. The point being, that studying obvious problems is a great way to find non-obvious solutions.

On preview: grouse has it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:00 PM on July 22, 2013 [30 favorites]


From Bklyn: Sadly, the war on poverty is not as profitable as the war on drugs.

Only on the short view. Properly directed efforts to reduce poverty and improve the economic position of citizens would very likley increase the relative wealth of future generations disproportionately to the amounts invested.

Getting the people who control wealth to relinquish selfish short-term goals (personal wealth accumulation and the enrichment of their immediate peers and families) is the difficult part.

tl;dr: Fuck you, I got mine and I'm gettin' me some more.
posted by mistersquid at 9:17 PM on July 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


In order to be science, you still have to test the obvious stuff. That's just how it works.

I didn't mean that the science shouldn't have been done. I meant that the effects of poverty are so great that it should have informed social policy, in the same way that the alleged effects of crack cocaine informed drug policy. For the record, I was surprised by the report's findings regarding the effect of poverty on IQ. If I had been asked to guess a number I would have thought that 10 points was high but plausible; 18 points is enough to make my jaw drop.

Incidentally, the study reportedly cost around $320,000 per year over twenty-five years. That is ridiculously cheap for knowledge as valuable as this: it's like the rounding error of a rounding error compared to the direct spending on welfare (and its flip side: incarceration). Now we need a further study: the effect of elections on the brains of politicians raised in privilege.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:32 PM on July 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "I'm surprised that this outcome wasn't obvious. I'm even more surprised that a huge, huge result like finding that children raised in poverty have a measured IQ of around 80 isn't cause for headlines and collective soul-searching."

Given the history of IQ testing, I don't find it all that surprising. The tests have been used to support various eugenicist and racist views against immigrants and minorities right from the early part of the early twentieth century, and you can still find proponents of "scientific racism" using IQ testing to support their heinous worldviews. Since IQ is assumed to measure innate, unchangeable biological intelligence, when poor people score low, it's just assumed that this "proves" that they're poor because of low IQ instead of the other way around. I mean, the U.S. is a meritocracy, right?
posted by Wemmick at 9:41 PM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I am not particularly surprised by this outcome, but I don't think it's obvious at all. There is plenty of evidence for fetal development is affected by smoking, commonplace over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, excessive alcohol use, insufficient folic acid intake, etc. It seems not-illogical to assume that unregulated street drugs could cause permanent damage.

The fucked-up thing is that this assumption was disseminated without question as if it were scientific fact -- and worse, policy was created around it.
posted by desuetude at 10:09 PM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes. We apparently plan to defeat it by putting all the poor people in prison.

What was it they used to say about the ancient Romans?

Oh, yeah.

"They make a desert and call it peace."
posted by Sara C. at 10:39 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't mean that the science shouldn't have been done. I meant that the effects of poverty are so great that it should have informed social policy, in the same way that the alleged effects of crack cocaine informed drug policy.

Only if you assume that 'policy makers' give a shit about actually helping people. The point of the drug war and 'welfare reform' was to disappear a generation of un- or under-employed black men into prison, full stop.
posted by empath at 10:49 PM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here are the statistics

  • Nearly one in three African American males aged 20–29 are under some form of criminal justice supervision whether imprisoned, jailed, on parole or probation.

  • One out of nine African American men will be incarcerated between the ages of 20 and 34.

  • Black males ages 30 to 34 have the highest incarceration rate of any race/ethnicity.


  • That was the goal of the war on drugs. Putting a lot of black people in prison, and employing a lot of police and guards to put and keep them there. By that measure, it's a roaring success.

    Which is why arguments about whether the drug war is 'effective' at getting people to not use drugs are basically pointless. Because it was never about keeping people off of drugs. It was about giving cops carte blanche to hassle, search and arrest black people on the flimsiest of charges.
    posted by empath at 10:53 PM on July 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


    Have there been studies of rich children who were conceived/gestated while their parents were drug users?

    I mean, it's not like only poor people use drugs.
    posted by Sara C. at 11:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


    Aw, crap. Now we're supposed to fight *poverty*?

    1) "we" are. One of the many "wars" is the war on poverty.
    2) It is far simpler to declare some other thing is the root cause. Something that has a variable one can't control like skin color because the effects of poverty can be changed. Best if you can get others all worked up when there isn't an actual large genetic difference.
    3) Bet be sitting down for this.

    But coming round the corner is ya all looking at being "the poors". Most of the US of A was built out on $5 and $10 a barrel cheap oil. That low cost energy source was the driver to the growth economy. Now that low cost energy source is going away. And with rising costs for having actual workers, "manufacturers" like McDonalds can buy a $100,000 hamburger making robot. Baxter Robotics has a $20,000 mass produced robot. And Apple bringing i-thing making into the United States - its because the robotic assembly line is cheaper than that cheap Chinese labour. Low end jobs like waitress/waiter are being gunned for with "place your order on the iPad" apps.

    Oh, think your "knowledge worker" job is safe? IBM's Watson is gunning for the physicians job to diagnose and should be able to do faster and better case law research and brief writing. (WellPoint and YaleLawJournal not to mention me standing here in my Captain Obvious Dress Blues.)

    Perhaps ya'll should consider sitting down at the feet of symboid, The Blue's resident communist so he can give a lecture on the ownership of the means of production. The old Greek philosophers who make it through the sieve of time asked about the nature of work and the Technocracy movement of the "great depression" spent time wondering about work/money when you have an excess of cheap production. And while the gold bugs and bitcoiners might be nuts, what happens to the US Economy is the rest of the world opts to stop trading in US Dollars as a way to address Drones and 3 degrees of data collection? Now toss in the idea of "austerity" to fix Government spending problems.....

    So yea, best start thinking about "the poors" cuz how many paychecks are YOU from being one of 'em?
    posted by rough ashlar at 2:05 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


    One of my personal heroes, Huey Newton, ended up falling too far down the crack well, and I think the rise of crack ended up hurting a lot of potential revolutionary movement within the black community.

    What a remarkably fortuitous coincidence for those with a stake in the status quo!
    posted by acb at 2:29 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


    Have there been studies of rich children who were conceived/gestated while their parents were drug users?

    I mean, it's not like only poor people use drugs.


    I would be fascinated to see some statistics on this, but even moreso on the rate at which upper middle class+ white 15-25 year olds do drugs vs other groups. Anecdotally entirely, but several of the biggest drug users i've ever met lived in mansions, one of them a couple blocks from bill gates' house.(which should be obvious to the uninitiated, but is a serious $$$$$ WASP type neighborhood)

    The problem there of course would be measuring it, because those kids seem to basically never get caught. One of them i used to know totalled i think 3 cars while under the influence of all kinds of shit and never even sat down in a cop car as a result.

    I've known pretty damn poor people who liked drugs, but it's a lot easier to just go on serious benders and party for a week straight when you have lots of cash to burn.

    And it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of "crack babies" came from those same kinds of families too. I've heard some ridiculous stories about various tech companies in the mid 90s-early 2000s with regards to drugs, and a lot of people were having kids...

    It just doesn't get talked about, and doesn't make a soundbite anyone wants to hear on either of those fronts. It at most gets presented in a similar way to how this was in the media. basically "lol rich party kids got fucked up, IN OTHER NEWS".
    posted by emptythought at 2:51 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


    emptythought, while it is only my own personal experience as well I would concur to a degree about coming from wealth and drug taking. I went to a selective high school, and in the second last year, what I imagine would be vaguely equivalent to the start of senior high in America, an extra 20-30 students were enrolled (year level cohort before was ~150, so a decent increase.) A lot of the new students were from the local Grammar school, and they were some of the biggest drug fiends and booze hounds of my year group. And my classmates already skewed somewhat at least middle if not upper middle class given the educational advantages, etc, that comes with growing up in such environments.

    There is an interesting discourse on drug use in anglo countries as far as I can tell. There's generally some kind of demonised drug abusing underclass, which to an extent does exist, and due to were I live is something I get to experience daily. They tend to be the ones identified as 'The Problem(TM).' Of course a lot of those people have grown up in/experienced various kinds of hardship, and their problem isn't that they use drugs, but why they use drugs.

    Then there is the 'Cautionary Tale' celebrity story. We're supposed to feel sorry for them, and ignore the fact that they are an incredible outlier. But hey, they have personhood, they aren't just junkies apparently. Not like that guy asking you for change no sir.

    Then there are the high powered upper middle class types, like bankers, lawyers, etc, hitting up the blow and expensive booze pretty hard, or even balancing their jobs with sometimes serious heroin habits (yeah it happens), who seem to be treated in a 'boys will be boys' manner unless they go too far. And of course what counts as 'too far', particularly vis a vis what poor drug users do and have their lives ruined for, is amazingly permissive. At least until they step on the wrong pair of Armani clad toes of someone higher up the food chain.

    Then finally there's the huge absent middle, which probably just by size alone consumes more of the overall drug consumption pie than the preceding three, though the types consumed are important to keep in mind. This then gets turned around into a 'won't someone think of our children' vibe.
    posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:42 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


    I think probably the wealthy can indulge because they can afford it, and the poor do it because they haven't got much to lose, and the lower middle class and upper-lower class are the most likely to be teetotalers, because their situation is the most precarious. That's just hand-waving based on personal anecdata though.
    posted by empath at 3:52 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


    Something that gets tossed around at my job (I teach in a very poor urban neighborhood k-8 school) is that a lot of our students don't know that they're poor. They might understand 'rich' through media like music videos or celebrity culture, but they don't see all of the space in between. They don't know all of the healthcare, etc differences that exist for even the middle class compared to them because they're stuck in the ghetto. Ascension to the middle class isn't even presented as a viable option (and then they get vitriol for being lazy because they don't aspire to it)

    But they sure as heck know when someone's on crack, and they don't think its something positive, even if they were a 'crack baby.'
    posted by lownote at 4:03 AM on July 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


    Even at the time, there were some people saying "uh, no, it's just malnutrition and stuff" but they were overwhelmed by the cultural narrative of "CRACK IS MAKING SUB-HUMAN OFFSPRING WHO WILL LACK EMPATHY AND BE A CONSTANT DRAIN ON OUR SOCIETY, AND IT'S THE FAULT OF THOSE WELFARE-CHEATING CRACK-SMOKING MOTHERS!!!"
    posted by rmd1023 at 6:39 AM on July 23, 2013


    We have yet to find a drug that is more harmful to society than the laws against it.

    Enjoy your thalidomide!

    Oh, you'll probably say you meant recreational drugs only. OK, take desomorphine (krokodil). We even had a post about it.
    posted by Mapes at 7:08 AM on July 23, 2013


    Thalidomide is not illegal and is in current use to treat leprosy and cancer.

    Desomorphine is only used because Heroin is illegal and therefore much harder to get.
    posted by localroger at 7:40 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


    We have yet to find a drug that is more harmful to society than the laws against it.

    Maybe not a drug but lead is pretty awful.
    posted by Skorgu at 8:01 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


    So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

    Wow, absalom. I found that quote incredibly moving. Thanks for posting it.
    posted by orme at 8:38 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


    We have yet to find a drug that is more harmful to society than the laws against it.

    Enjoy your thalidomide!

    Oh, you'll probably say you meant recreational drugs only. OK, take desomorphine (krokodil). We even had a post about it.


    Thalidomide is not a recreational drug and is not illegal, it just shouldn't be given to pregnant women. Desomorphine is a result of herion's prohibition, thus proving my point.

    Maybe not a drug but lead is pretty awful.

    You are correct, lead is not a drug.

    Is it "willfully misinterpret a simple statement and try to disprove it with a nonsense example" day?
    posted by spaltavian at 8:57 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


    Lead is not only not a drug it is also not illegal and you can buy some here.
    posted by localroger at 8:59 AM on July 23, 2013


    Easy there, I was just pointing out that chemicals that cause far-ranging epidemiological effects do exist and restricting their use can be productive for non-puritanical reasons.

    I figured explicitly acknowledging that I was departing from your framing would make that clear but apparently not. I'm not trying to disprove your statement.
    posted by Skorgu at 9:23 AM on July 23, 2013


    I nominate PCP as a drug that I'm pretty fucking happy with being illegal.
    posted by maryr at 9:38 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


    SUB-HUMAN OFFSPRING WHO WILL LACK EMPATHY ... IT'S THE FAULT OF THOSE WELFARE-CHEATING CRACK-SMOKING MOTHERS

    I lolled.

    Is it "willfully misinterpret a simple statement and try to disprove it with a nonsense example" day?

    Every day is MASSATTDIWANEday, and anyone who says "No, not today; today is Tuesday" is just proving your point.
    posted by kengraham at 9:40 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


    Actually all these nonsense counterexamples neatly reinforce the original point, that we do not generally react to the discovery that a thing is dangerous by freaking out and threatening to throw anyone who has ever possessed it under a jail.

    Thalidomide was brought back into (careful) use by the medical community, whereas despite its comparative safety and massive evidence of utility marijuana remains sanctioned. Lead in fuel has horrible epidemiological implications but if you're a fanatical enough classic car owner you can get it for your own use and no SWAT team will knock down your door to catch you. Most of us have drugs in our medicine cabinet that are far more dangerous than a similar pharmaceutical grade of heroin, THC, cocaine hydrochloride, amphetamines, LSD, or MDMA.

    Most of the truly dangerous recreational drugs are only out there because they are easier to make or safer to possess than better alternatives which have been freak-out illegalized. And yet none of them will kill you so effectively and horribly as chugging an OTC bottle of acetaminophen.
    posted by localroger at 9:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


    acb: "One of my personal heroes, Huey Newton, ended up falling too far down the crack well, and I think the rise of crack ended up hurting a lot of potential revolutionary movement within the black community.

    What a remarkably fortuitous coincidence for those with a stake in the status quo!
    "

    CIA BONO!
    posted by symbioid at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2013


    Some people might not have expected this result, but I consider it obvious.

    I used to help run a program run out of a local university which offered free university education to residents of Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside. In its infancy it was modelled after Earl Shorris's Clemente Program for the humanities, but rather than look at education as a "weapon in the hands of the restless poor" as Shorris did, which we felt re-affirmed the class divide between the privileged, educated instructors and actively disempowered low-income students, we changed the focus to one which valued all knowledge brought into the classroom, either in the form of academic lectures or the lived experience of poverty, addiction and so on. It made for some remarkable classroom moments.

    One I will always remember is when we invited an economics prof who was also the Dean of Arts to give a class on economics. We encourage our instructors to tailor their class to the students interests, which often betrays some kind of class bias. The instructor was a big fan of the program, but her conception of it leaned more towards Shorris than what we were doing. She decided to do a class on the economics of homelessness -- which immediately struck me as odd, because she was basically addressing what amounted to a roomful of experts on the subject. But she began, as most teachers do, with some preliminary comments about how complicated homelessness was as an economic and social problem.

    Our students don't tend to follow typical classroom etiquette, since they're used to a more equal, reciprocal teaching environment. A few students immediately put up their hands and said, no, it wasn't that complicated: People were homeless because rents were too high and they're weren't enough affordable units.

    The instructor was a bit taken aback, and insisted that you couldn't just make wide-sweeping claims like that. In economics, you had to base your conclusions on data and research. The students in turn insisted that they were basing it on data and research: their own. Rents were too high and there weren't enough places to rent.

    The class went on like that, and the instructor took them through a case study on Vancouver's housing crisis. After about 40 minutes of examining and processing data and studying methodology, she came to the conclusion of the paper: rents were too high and there was a shortage of affordable housing units. "There," she said triumphantly. "Now you know why there's a homelessness problem in Vancouver."

    There was a lesson to be had that day, but unfortunately it didn't get passes on to the student.
    posted by Catchfire at 11:11 AM on July 23, 2013 [10 favorites]


    localroger: Most of us have drugs in our medicine cabinet that are far more dangerous than a similar pharmaceutical grade of heroin, THC, cocaine hydrochloride, amphetamines, LSD, or MDMA.

    That seems a bit extreme. Sure, there are things that will kill you on an overdose like acetaminophen or iron-containing vitamins, but they don't have any recreational or addictive potential, so the only reason you'd ever overdose on them would be an accident or a suicide attempt. Whereas cocaine and heroin are absolutely able to kill you on an overdose, and they're extremely addictive, so they can lead you into that overdose. The only medications that are as dangerous as that are the really powerful prescription painkillers (which are heavily regulated for that reason), a few drugs with really nasty side effects, and some drugs for which the therapeutic dose is very close to the lethal dose.
    posted by Mitrovarr at 11:52 AM on July 23, 2013


    Nearly all deaths from cocaine and heroin occur because of contamination and irregular potency respectively. Both drugs have been used by humans for extended periods of time without major detrimental effects when pharmaceutical grade sources were available.

    In nearly all cases where more dangerous forms of drugs, like crack cocaine, and simply more dangerous drugs like PCP are popular it is because the availability of safer drugs has been restricted and people are taking what they can get.

    Meanwhile, OTC analgesics are also prone to abuse and tens of thousands of people are hospitalized and hundreds die every year because they don't realize how dangerous acetaminophen is. Any system which regulates marijuana the way we do but sells a bottle of Tylenol to any child with a ten dollar bill can only be described as insane.
    posted by localroger at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


    showing that poverty is affecting "outcomes" for kids is like proving water affects your ability to breath when someone is holding you underwater.

    it's true, obviously so, but missing the problem entirely.
    posted by ennui.bz at 12:34 PM on July 23, 2013


    Both drugs have been used by humans for extended periods of time without major detrimental effects when pharmaceutical grade sources were available.

    Yeah, but we're not talking about generic humans here. We're talking about a group of humans that whose mothers used cocaine while pregnant and avoided the very real and very dangerous possibility of premature birth that comes with cocaine use while pregnant. I guess find the focus on the things related to the thing effect the people that didn't rather than the thing that DID kind of odd. The take away message for me isn't that recreational drugs shouldn't be regulated but that working to reduce poverty would help future children more than reducing cocaine use among pregnant women. So, why are we focusing on the drug part?
    posted by Gygesringtone at 12:45 PM on July 23, 2013


    Wow that sentence is just a mess of cut and pasting, let's try that again:

    "I guess find the focus on the things related to the thing that didn't effect people rather than the thing that DID kind of odd. "
    posted by Gygesringtone at 12:47 PM on July 23, 2013


    localroger: Nearly all deaths from cocaine and heroin occur because of contamination and irregular potency respectively. Both drugs have been used by humans for extended periods of time without major detrimental effects when pharmaceutical grade sources were available.

    I don't know about this. The problems related to widespread consumption of opiate derivatives were the main impetus for the creation of drug laws in the first place. I'm also not sure processed, refined cocaine was ever used safely in a non-pharmaceutical setting.
    posted by Mitrovarr at 1:07 PM on July 23, 2013


    Yeah, but we're not talking about generic humans here.

    I'm not sure if I want you to articulate what kind of humans you think we are talking about. I'm pretty sure I'd find it obscene.

    The take away message for me isn't that recreational drugs shouldn't be regulated

    Absolutely nobody has suggested that. What we have suggested is in fact that they should be regulated for purity and medical supervision in the same way other drugs are, as opposed to the insanity of banning them entirely and putting people in jail for violating the ban.
    posted by localroger at 1:08 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


    The problems related to widespread consumption of opiate derivatives were the main impetus for the creation of drug laws in the first place.

    Not true. The fact that they were the favored recreational drug of Chinese immigrants was the main impetus for the creation of those drug laws. Opium and Heroin were used for centuries before those racially motivated bans were instituted.
    posted by localroger at 1:11 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


    Refined cocaine was regularly used between 1890 and the early 1900's, often as a "pep" stimulant thought to increase workers' stamina and strength. Just as the racist opiate bans originated with fear of the Chinese on the West Coast, fear of cocaine was largely motivated by fear of its effects on black people in the South, and the impetus for the cocaine ban started off in the South. Cite:
    In 1901, the Atlanta Constitution reported that “Use of the drug [cocaine] among negroes is growing to an alarming extent.” The New York Times reported that under the influence of cocaine, “sexual desires are increased and perverted … peaceful negroes become quarrelsome, and timid negroes develop a degree of 'Dutch courage' that is sometimes almost incredible.” A medical doctor even wrote “cocaine is often the direct incentive to the crime of rape by the negroes.” To complete the characterization, a judge in Mississippi declared that supplying a “negro” with cocaine was more dangerous than injecting a dog with rabies.
    Nobody gave a rats ass about health effects except that made the wrong people seem maybe a little too healthy.
    posted by localroger at 1:19 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


    localroger: Nobody gave a rats ass about health effects except that made the wrong people seem maybe a little too healthy.

    I'm not sure I agree about the opiates, as the historical materials I've seen have suggested that widespread morphine abuse (very similar to prescription painkiller abuse now) was a serious issue. But anyways, we now have good evidence that the long-term heavy use of opiate-based painkillers is both harmful and dangerous, even in a medical setting. Although I don't necessarily believe that they should be illegal, as I consider the problems due to drug laws to outweigh the problems of drug abuse.
    posted by Mitrovarr at 1:35 PM on July 23, 2013


    If anything the record is less clear with cocaine, which was only in wide use in purified form for a couple of decades before it was banned. The record on opiates, particularly opium as opposed to more purified forms, is quite clear. Yes some people would have a problem with it; some people eat too much and get diabetes too. But many people used the drug for decades to little or no obvious detriment.
    posted by localroger at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]




    In 1901, the Atlanta Constitution reported that “Use of the drug [cocaine] among negroes is growing to an alarming extent.”

    Interesting: Note the city. Note the year. Just two years later, a certain firm stopped putting cocaine in its soft drinks.
    posted by Sys Rq at 10:02 PM on July 23, 2013


    I'm not sure if I want you to articulate what kind of humans you think we are talking about. I'm pretty sure I'd find it obscene.

    I thought I did a pretty good job (aside form the extra that) with the sentence that followed the one you quoted, which basically described the group that was studied. That's the group that (if we're discussing the article and study) we're talking about the effect of cocaine on their lives, and then only cocaine used by their mothers while pregnant with them.

    I do get the attraction of making this about how stupid drug laws are. Some drug laws are stupid, and some are out and out disasters with the all the ruined lives that goes along with that. However, the article is pretty agnostic about cocaine use (except that pregnant women shouldn't use it because the increased chances of premature labor), and silent on the impact of the current set of drug laws. That makes me think that as a starting point for a conversation about drug laws, this particular article is lacking, and that it works much better for a conversation about poverty. I don't even think that the two are necessarily separate discussions, because a lot of what makes the US's drug laws so awful is the way their enforcement interacts with class. However, when it comes to debating about the merrits of regulating the purity of drugs versus those of an out and out ban, that's pretty far a field from the particular intersection of class and drug use that the article discusses.
    posted by Gygesringtone at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2013


    Well, another thing I'd consider obvious but maybe isn't so much to other people, is that if you want to do something about the poverty the first thing you have to do is get rid of the drug war, which is one of the most powerful engines perpetuating the culture.

    Illegalization drives the prices up, which makes the trade more profitable and the users more desperate. It widens a gulf between the drug money funded haves and the user and bystander have-nots in the community which regular jobs cannot bridge. It drives a culture of conflict with the cops and interorganizational violence which drives out affluent residents, which drives down the tax base and drives out businesses driving up prices for commodities like healthy food.

    And of course you have a huge pariah class who have been touched by the drug trade who are hobbled by felony convictions or prejudices like the "crack mama" stereotype which keep them out of the political discourse and from improving themselves by getting better regular jobs.

    So for a lot of reasons, you really can't talk about poverty without talking about the drug war. The drug war may not have created the poverty but it is sure keeping the status quo centered.
    posted by localroger at 4:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


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