While crack addiction may not be considered the epidemic it once was in the United States, it is still a major issue in many communities. Crack is a highly addictive and deadly drug that is widespread and easily obtainable.
Crack is made by combining cocaine with additives such as baking soda in order to strengthen its effects and increase profitability for drug dealers. Crack is potentially one of the most well-known and stigmatized drugs in the country. The 1980s featured a crack problem among communities that were severe that the government considered it to be an epidemic.
Crack users will experience manic and sudden bursts of unexplained energy. They will often appear agitated, paranoid, excited beyond reason. As the dose wears off, users will experience fatigue and a need to sleep for long periods.
For those who use crack regularly, the sudden swings of great energy to immense fatigue can lead to many mental health issues. Mood swings, violent behavior, and depression can all occur among those addicted to the drug. Attempting to stop using the drug without help can lead to suicidal thoughts and uncontrollable physical ticks often referred to as jitters.
The Origins of Crack Cocaine
Crack cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant. Originating in South America, coca leaves have been used since ancient times for their euphoric effects. When English travelers came to South America and saw how the coca leaves were used, they brought them back to England. Soon they became widely available across Europe.
In 1855, pure cocaine was extracted from coca leaves for the first time. This led to the medical discovery of anesthetics such as Novocain, but also the abuse of cocaine quickly became a problem throughout the world.
By the mid-20th century, cocaine had already become illegal in much of the world. However, it remained a prominent cash crop for many South American countries. Cartels began to form around the growing and exporting of cocaine into countries where it remained illegal.
Cocaine became so common in South America that it became harder to sell. There was simply too much on the market for many of the cartels to make money. The chemical sodium bicarbonate was added to powdered cocaine in order to make the effects stronger in hopes it would be easier to sell. This was the invention of crack cocaine.
The first traces of crack came from South America into Miami in 1981. By 1984, crack was in mass production and could be found in every major American city.
The Crack Epidemic
The crack epidemic refers to a period when the usage of crack skyrocketed in the United States during the 1980s. Due to the high profit margin for those who sold drugs, crack became a popular option to push. Quickly it became one of the largest street drugs in America because of how cheap it was to buy and the strength of its effects.
The crack epidemic had a particularly devastating impact in urban environments, especially on the African-American communities. As industries began moving outside of cities during the administration of Ronald Reagan, crack introduced a new economy to otherwise abandoned inner-city neighborhoods.
Young men who could not find jobs were suddenly able to make large amounts of money by selling crack. The demand for the drug on the streets continued to rise and the ability to sell and make money continuously pulled more people into the drug world.
Due to the economics of the drug-selling world, violence began to skyrocket in the mid-1980s. Independent drug dealers began to use violence to defend and expand their territory, which in turn would lead to more profit.
The Reagan administration began implementing policies to combat the effects of the crack epidemic of city communities, which they deemed the “War on Drugs”. Federal anti-drug laws were passed and funding was raised in the name of ending the use of crack cocaine.
The policies of the “War on Drugs” were based on deterrence strategies. This includes heavy punishments for even the smallest of drugs dealers selling crack cocaine. The belief behind deterrence strategies is that overly harsh punishments should scare away more people from either buying or selling crack.
These policies quickly increased prison populations, especially among young black males. Courts became overrun in small drug cases and law enforcement agencies struggled to keep up. Today, many consider the policies of the “War on Drugs” to have been a failure that made the drug problems in cities worse rather than better.