Ten or twelve years ago, it was widely agreed that the lowest form of human life was a crack addict, and the lowest of the low was a pregnant addict, because she was guilty of a vicious assault and battery just for being pregnant while consumed by addiction. All right-thinking people hated her. Moral guardians of the William Bennett ilk denounced liberalism for creating her. It was said that we should lock her up to prevent her from letting the worst of all possible poisons, crack, flow through her bloodstream to her unborn child.
Today's New York Times offered this clarification:
... in recent decades, scientists have discovered that alcohol can be remarkably toxic — more than any other abused drug — to developing fetuses...
"Alcohol is a dirty drug," Dr. West added. "It affects a number of different neurotransmitters, and all cells can take it up." Compare this with cocaine, Dr. West said, which is taken up by only one neurotransmitter....
Because alcohol affects so many sites in the brain, researchers have come to believe that alcohol is far worse for the developing fetus than any other abused drug.
Dr. Jacobson's study included cocaine users who also used varying quantities of alcohol. "We found more serious cognitive impairment in relation to alcohol than cocaine or other drugs, including marijuana and smoking," Dr. Jacobson said.
The damage done to fetuses often has been wrongly connected to cocaine, many experts say.
"The consensus, I think, at this point is that most of the adverse effects that had been reported due to cocaine and crack use were from alcohol use," said Dr. Kenneth R. Warren, the director of the office of scientific affairs at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "It is the leading cause of birth defects due to an ingested environmental substance in this country."
Whoops! Sorry about that misunderstanding.