Crack cocaine is the smokable free base form of cocaine and the chemical composition is essentially identical. Once crack reached U.S. communities, the low cost of crack made it extremely popular in poor communities. It was cheap, readily available, highly profitable for dealers, and gave consumers quicker highs. As expected, crack cocaine contributed to the rising crime rates in America. Crack cocaine devastated mostly low-income minority communities in major cities and its effects were felt for decades.
The ease of making free base crack cocaine made it pointless to import crack cocaine. As a result, crack became a unique problem for the communities that the drug was being sold in. The high of crack lasts only 10 to 15 minutes and is reported by users to be more intense than cocaine. The smokable form absorbs the chemicals quicker and more efficiently than inhaling cocaine, where much of it gets lost. The way crack affects the brain is it targets the reabsorption of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that is responsible for the pleasure and reward system in your brain. The feelings of pleasure you derive when dopamine is released by a neuron usually lasts temporarily. It usually ends when the dopamine is reabsorbed, but crack cocaine prevents this from happening and the dopamine continues to float around and the feelings of pleasure continue as long as it doesn’t get reabsorbed. That feeling wears off after 10-15 minutes and the need to continue that high results in the high potential for addiction and abuse.
Dealers in the U.S. figured out that the smokable free base form of cocaine was easy to produce. They could also sell it cheap and the quantities made it much more profitable than cocaine. Quicker and more intense highs meant more of it could be sold. Crack cocaine was sold for much cheaper than cocaine, resulting in the epidemic effecting mostly low-income inner city neighborhoods. U.S. crime rates were already at all-time highs and the violence that erupted due to crack cocaine only further contributed to rising crime rates during the 1980s.
The inner city communities devastated by crack cocaine were mostly minority communities. While more affluent communities suffered from cocaine abuse, it was crack users that were punished more harshly by the justice system. The federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 instituted harsh mandatory minimum sentences that disproportionately punished crack users. The sentencing disparity between crack users and cocaine users was 100:1, despite the fact that they are essentially the same drug. In 2010, the disparity was reduced to 18:1 by the Fair Sentencing Act. Besides the rise in violence and people being sent to jail for an inordinate amount of time, the health effects including heart attacks and respiratory problems have had wide ranging effects. These problems caused by crack break up families and as a result, generations of children have been negatively effected.
Crack cocaine is essentially the same chemical drug as cocaine. Crack is the smokable form and as a result, it absorbs into the bloodstream much quicker. It causes a shorter and more intense high. Crack is much cheaper to produce and sell, which is why the communities most effected by crack have been poor minority communities. The justice system has punished crack users much more harshly than cocaine users, resulting in broken families that have negatively affected these communities for generations.