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Cocaine babies studied

Researchers hope to document whether the babies of mothers addicted to crack cocaine are prematurely brain damaged in the womb. Pediatric specialists at the University of Florida Health Science Center have received a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse worth almost $2-million to compare the development of crack babies to normal children through their first three years of life.

Over the next five years, researchers plan to enroll 300 pregnant women, 150 admitted crack users and 150 drug-free mothers-to-be from rural public health clinics in north-central Florida. The drug-free pregnant women will serve as a control group.

Ever since the first large group of crack-exposed babies was born in the mid-1980s, a debate has raged among physicians, educators and social workers over the question of how severely impaired those children may be.

UF researchers say there is little documentation in the medical literature to support claims that crack-impaired babies are permanently brain-damaged and unteachable.

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