The Crack Epidemic in the United States of America
The Crack Epidemic in the United States of America
Crack cocaine was a new drug that was introduced in the US in the early 1980’s. During those days, several youth from the poorer areas of the city were compelled to participate in the illegal economy, in order to survive (How the CIA Created the Crack Epidemic, 1996). Cocaine flowed into the US, principally from the Bahamas, which experienced a glut of cocaine powder. The cost diminished rapidly, and the drug dealers decided to change cocaine powder into a form that could be smoked. This was known as Crack, which gained considerable popularity in some parts of the United States like Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston.
It was easy to prepare, use, cheap and highly remunerative for the drug dealers (Lawn, 1990). This cheap source of cocaine created a significant number of addicts, within a very short period of time. Furthermore, emigrants from the Caribbean islands taught the local Miami youth, the procedure for preparing crack cocaine, who subsequently, commenced the crack cocaine trade in the US (Lawn, 1990). The effect of crack cocaine is felt quite soon after being ingested, but the effect is short – lived. It makes the users feel energetic, alert and diminishes appetite; many users experience anxiety and restlessness.
After the effect of the drug is over, the user undergoes severe depression and lethargy followed by sleep that could last for several days (Cocaine addiction). Addiction to cocaine takes place very easily, but it is very difficult to discontinue this habit. Typically, crack users ruin their personal relationships, and their education and employment at risk. They undertake any risk, in order to obtain the drug. Abstention from crack makes the user highly depressed. Such users will smoke crack, so as to get rid of such depression. Obtention of the drug assumes paramountcy in the life of the user (Cocaine addiction).
Initially crack users were from the middle class, and were not considered to be the chief threat; because, they were unconnected with cocaine users. In Miami crack was found for the first time in 1982. In New York City, it was discovered in 1983, where it posed a serious problem. In that area, most of the crack users were white professionals or middle class youth. Moreover, another very important reason for the spread of crack addiction is the cheaper price of Crack (Lawn, 1990). The number of American cocaine addicts has increased due to the crack epidemic.
In 1985 the Department of Health and Human Service conducted a national household survey. In this survey it was disclosed that the number of cocaine users who had been admitted was 5. 8 million, up from 4. 2 million. During the years 1985 and 1986, even the hospital emergencies that were related to cocaine increased throughout the nation (Lawn, 1990). Crack proved to be very popular with women got attracted towards crack, because of the absence of needle marks, like in the case of heroin. Moreover, crack can be passed off as marijuana, which is also smoked.
If pregnant women consume crack, children born to them get adversely affected. Many of these children had been deserted by such addicted mothers. In the late 1980’s around ten percent of the newborn children in the US were being subjected to one or more illegal drug in the womb itself (Lawn, 1990). The sale of illegal drugs, resulted in a great deal of violence, which took hold of many U. S. communities, and Miami, was witness to a great deal of drug – related violence. This constituted the US crack epidemic of 1985, which resulted in intense fighting among abusers of crack and rival groups.
The crack epidemic was still so violent that in 1989, it was deemed to be one of the majors problems of the nation (Lawn, 1990). The crack epidemic gave the government, the much needed excuse to divert the public’s attention from unbearable poverty, unemployment, poor healthcare, disintegrating schools and housing. The US government declared a war on drugs and encouraged its police to employ extremely brutal tactics against the drug dealers. The outcome of this war was the whole sale incarceration of Black and Latino youth, and the outlawing of a generation (How the CIA Created the Crack Epidemic, 1996).
A paste is prepared from the leaves of the coca plant and powder cocaine is obtained from it. This powder cocaine is cooked in an aqueous solution of baking soda, till a rocklike consistency is achieved. This substance, which is called crack cocaine, is sold after being broken into tiny pieces (Coyle). Its marked difference from powder cocaine was responsible for crack cocaine, being considered a social hazard. Such opinions were due to the terror inspired by the internecine battles between drug dealers, in their efforts to expand the crack cocaine trade.
Federal law built a penalty structure based on these presumptions. However, laws that were designed to differentiate between crack and powder cocaine were adopted only in fourteen states (Coyle). As such, the psychotropic and physiological effects of the powder and crack varieties of cocaine were proved to be identical in various studies. A study of 1996, whose results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that their effect on the human body was the same (Coyle). The Act of 1986 had established a 100:1 ratio of punishment between the sale of powder cocaine and crack cocaine.
For instance, a person guilty of selling 500 grams of powder cocaine receives the same sentence as a person selling 5 gram of crack cocaine (United States Sentencing Commission). Congress enacted a compulsory minimum sentence, even for the mere possession of crack cocaine. The Anti – Drug Abuse Act 1988, differentiates between crack cocaine and other controlled substances. However, mere possession of powder cocaine by the first-time offenders attracts a sentence of less than a year in prison (United States Sentencing Commission).
Some critics consider the 100:1 ratio as an unjust and ineffective policy of cocaine sentencing. They argue that the crime, violence and disintegration of the densely populated section of a city, do not result solely from the abuse of the drug. There are other factors like the social and economic environments. Several opponents to such legislation pointed out that there was significant racial discrimination in arresting and sentencing persons possessing crack cocaine (United States Sentencing Commission). The proponents of such legislation contend that crack cocaine is more powerful and dangerous than powder cocaine.
They also argue that the introduction of crack cocaine created a large number of many drug markets, with the result that there was a drastic increase in violence. They have also argued that crack cocaine is more addictive than the powder cocaine and results in several health and social problems (United States Sentencing Commission). These supporters even argue that these penalties are impartial and racially non – discriminatory. They believe that such strict penalties benefit the minorities as crack has been destroying their lives.
Moreover, they state that most of the crack related crimes are committed by ethnic minorities, and that accordingly, the number of such convictions are also large (United States Sentencing Commission). The abuse of any drug like crack cocaine, is generally, within a limited section of the population, where it becomes popular. Subsequently, it acquires widespread popularity and the use of that drug increases dramatically. However, at some stage, it becomes unpopular and its abuse starts to decline, gradually (Johnson, 1997). Abuse of crack was at its peak between the years 1979 to 1981.
Thereafter, its use declined, and a 1986 survey disclosed that three – fourths of those who had tried it had never tried it again. Crack trade had caused serious damage to the communities where it was sold, and had escalated crime and violence. The families of those involved in abusing and selling crack had suffered a great deal (Szalavitz, 1999). A number of crack users of the 1980’s had become old by the early 1990’s. The youth of this crack generation who had suffered due to the ruination of their families, resolved to neither abuse nor sell crack cocaine.
The drastic decrease in the rates of teen births and infant mortality, in many cities of the US, is sufficient proof of the crack epidemic’s end. In 1989, sixty – four percent had regarded crack cocaine as a major threat to the nation, this reduced to ten percent by the year 1990 (Szalavitz, 1999). Since, crack cocaine addiction had shown many side effects and symptoms, it was considered to be a disease, and a cure was developed. The therapies include treatment in rehabilitation centers and the administration of medicines to fight the poison inside the body. Most crack cocaine users do not know how to stop using this substance.
What is required is a strong resolve to join a rehabilitation program; moreover, support of family members, plays a significant role in such cure (Cure for Crack Cocaine Addiction). Sometimes, such measures are unsuccessful in getting rid of the addiction, and the attending physician might declare that chances of emerging from such addiction are meager. This is the critical juncture, at which, family support is essential, because such support can prove beneficial in helping the drug addict to overcome the habit (Cure for Crack Cocaine Addiction). References Cocaine addiction. (n. d. ).
Retrieved April 6, 2008, from CocaineAddiction. com: http://www. cocaineaddiction. com/cocaine_addiction. html Coyle, M. (n. d. ). Race and Class Penalties in Crack Cocaine Sentencing. Retrieved April 6, 2008, from The Sentencing Project: http://www. sentencingproject. org/Admin/Documents/publications/rd_raceandclass_penalties. pdf Cure for Crack Cocaine Addiction. (n. d. ). Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://www. crack-cocaine-addiction. net/cure-for-crack-cocaine-addiction. html How the CIA Created the Crack Epidemic. (1996, September 15). Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://rwor. org/a/firstvol/crack. htm Johnson, B.
D. (1997, July). Crack’s Decline: Some Surprises Across U. S. Cities. Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://www. ncjrs. gov/txtfiles/165707. txt Lawn, J. C. (1990, March 23). The Crack Epidemic. Retrieved April 6, 2008, from US Drug Enforcement Administration: http://www. usdoj. gov/dea/pubs/history/1985-1990. html Szalavitz, M. (1999, May 11). Cracked Up. Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://dir. salon. com/story/news/feature/1999/05/11/crack_media/ United States Sentencing Commission. (n. d. ). Report on Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy . Retrieved April 6, 2008, from http://www. ussc. gov/crack/CHAP1. HTM