How a Klondike Bar Advertisement Inspired a Neuropharmacology Question.
Dire predictions of reduced intelligence and social skills in babies born to mothers who used crack cocaine while pregnant during the 1980s—so-called "crack babies"—were grossly exaggerated; becoming increasingly evident beginning with a classic study by Hecht, et.al in 1999, and subsequent frenzied controversy.
However, the fact that most of these children do not show serious overt deficits should not be overinterpreted to indicate that there is no cause for concern.
In a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from Case Western Reserve University used information gathered from the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey to compare rates of substance use among adolescents exposed prenatally to cocaine to rates in adolescents not prenatally exposed to the drug. They supplemented this information with blood, hair or urine samples. All told, the study included over 300 adolescents;183 had been exposed to cocaine in the womb, while the remaining 175 had not.
The researchers concluded that, compared to the adolescents with no history of prenatal cocaine exposure, the adolescents prenatally exposed to the drug had higher rates of use for essentially all substances. For example, while only 26 percent of non-exposed adolescents had smoked cigarettes, 35 percent of exposed teens had smoked. Thirty-five percent of non-exposed adolescents had consumed alcohol, while 40 percent of exposed adolescents had consumed alcohol. Finally, 50 percent of the non-prenatally cocaine exposed adolescents had used a drug other than marijuana, while 59 percent of the in utero cocaine-exposed adolescents had used another drug (i.e., cocaine).
Enter the classic Klondike Bar Advertising campaign, in which faux “human-in-the-street-on-hidden-camera” subjects were asked the following question: “What would you do for A Klondike Bar?”
It was after seeing that TV spot for the first time that the “lightbulb” above my head lit up:
“Would adolescents with a history of in utero Klondike Bar exposure be expected to consume more Klondike Bars than their non-exposed peers --and, (also in the case with in utero cocaine exposure and future drug use) WHY?”
It is the “WHY” (whether we're talkin’ cocaine or Klondike Bars) which holds the key.
We really want to know what's hiding in the “WHY”?
The Klondike Bar advertising slogan is, if not “the key”, at least, a decent tool for picking the lock.
Perhaps, getting closer to the truth about the effects of in utero (prenatal) cocaine exposure on future patterns of cocaine use requires asking a better question:
“What would you do for a line of coke?”
“How many lines of coke can you snort up?”
The graphic below, when clicked, represents an attempt to test the generalization of the Klondike Bar Advertisement (in some carefully selected focus groups from the rodent world).