10 Ways the US Government Used the Crack Epidemic to Justify the War on Drugs


Myth 5: Crack Use During Pregnancy Produces ‘Crack Babies’

At the start of the crack scare in the fall of 1985, the news media began a series of startling stories about newborn infants who allegedly suffered severe and permanent health damage as fetuses because their mothers ingested cocaine during pregnancy. The forms of alleged damage ranged from premature birth, low birth weight and central nervous system disturbances to more severe neurobehavioral disorders, brain damage, birth defects and even sudden infant death syndrome. But researchers eventually discovered that, though cocaine use, like most other drug use, is surely not advisable during pregnancy, the impact of cocaine exposure on newborn health and development was, at best, greatly exaggerated in media accounts. Medical scientists conducted follow-up studies on these infants and found that nearly all of the allegedly irreversible damage attributed to crack could be undone with proper pediatric care and a decent home environment. In short, “crack babies” were more the product of the crack scare than of crack itself.
lafayette park
Lafayette Park
Myth 6: You Could Even Buy Crack in Front of the White House
On Sept. 5, 1989, President George H.W. Bush, speaking from the Oval Office, announced his plan for achieving “victory over drugs” in his first major primetime address to the nation. During the
speech, Bush held up to the cameras a clear plastic bag of crack labeled “EVIDENCE.” He announced that it was “seized a few days ago in a park across the street from the White House.” But in order to enable Bush to make that claim, the DEA had to figure out how to pull off a crack deal in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, where no sensible crack dealer would ever do a crack deal. Undercover DEA agents finally lured Keith Jackson, an 18-year-old African-American high school senior, to the park to sell them crack — but the deal was complicated by the fact that he didn’t even know where the White House was. After the DEA agents purchased the crack from Jackson for $2,400, they let him go.

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