Crack and Cocaine
Drug use and abuse in society is a practice that its legal and health impacts are well known to be consequential by the users, victims and even those who sell them. Over the past decade, the United States has spent billions in the fight against drugs with very little or no impact. However, extensive media campaigns, construction of rehabilitation centers and awareness campaigns in society have to some extent helped in reducing the consequences and proliferation of drug use and abuse. Cocaine is among the main drugs that the US has been battling with for several decades. The use and presentation of Cocaine has been shifting within the same period. According to statistics of 2012, it is estimated that about 12 million people in the United States have used cocaine in their lives. Among this population, an estimated 8.6 million users claimed that they had been using the drug within the past year (Gwynne, Salon). This is an indication of the widespread use and trafficking of cocaine within the United States.
Cocaine is a drug that is obtained from coca plant and mainly grown in the Andes Mountains in South America. The drug is purely white in color in the original state and chemically known as sodium hydrochloride (Gwynne, Para 20). The difference between crack and cocaine comes from the way in which each is prepared for consumption through the use of various kinds of chemicals or other substances. Cocaine is extracted using a white crystalline substance that is chopped into fine white particles. The finished product that is obtained from this process is between 60 to 70% pure cocaine. However, crack is prepared through heating of the product then mixing it with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and ammonia (Gwynne, Salon). After the entire process, crack usually bears 80 to 100% pure cocaine that is brown, yellow or white in color. Besides, it is also in a waxy solid state (Gwynne, Para 20). The difference between cocaine and crack is that during processing, hydrochloride is removed from powder cocaine, thereby leaving an oily substance that is further dried to form a solid-rock structure. Apart from the removal of the hydrochloride, the two have similar molecular structures.
Crack cocaine is named from the method of preparation whereby, when the cocaine is heated before use, it makes a cracking sound. The way in which crack and cocaine are each ingested in the body is another point of difference. The ingestion of crack is usually by smoking of the product while cocaine is on the other hand, ingested directly into the blood stream. However, it is also smoked in certain instances. Crack is usually absorbed into the body much faster through the nose and takes about five to fifteen seconds only for the user to begin feeling ‘high.’ The impacts of the drug last for about ten to fifteen minutes, after which the user is left with depression and the need for more in order to restore the feeling. This is among the main reasons behind the consideration of the drug as a hard drug owing to the fact that those who use it for the first time can easily get hooked to the levels of addiction. Based on the mode in which it is ingested in the body, cocaine generally takes an estimated ten to fifteen minutes to show its impacts on the user.
Despite the similarity of the origins of the two freebased drugs, their uses are entirely different. Crack is classified among hard drugs because of its spontaneous effects when used. Besides, it also has lots of impurities and usually packaged in smaller packs (approximately a single dose), thereby making it cheaper and easily affordable even to teenagers that can obtain it at about $5 to $20. Crack is quite common among the black community across the inner cities and ghettos living in poverty. On the contrast, cocaine is especially popular among the upper and middle class members of the society, and celebrities and high end individuals on Wall Street. Due to the high cost of and less impurity in cocaine, it is an ideal drug for these classes of people. Besides, it is also less addictive compared to crack. The two drugs can be likened to racial disparity especially in consideration of their adverse impacts on certain races, mainly the African Americans and Latinos. The experiences of crack and cocaine on these races have been controversial with reports that they are linked to the inception or discovery of the drugs.
History of Cocaine
In order to track the origin of crack cocaine, it is important to start by tracing its historical background and roots; how its use started until the current status. Cocaine was initially used by the local South Americans where it was discovered. The locals chewed the leaves that acted as mild stimulants and had no adverse impacts on their physical, mental and psychological wellbeing. In fact, the drug is still used today among the locals in its basic form. However, it was until the 1850s when British settlers extracted cocaine from the leaves of the plant that it originates from (Gwynne, Salon). The drug became popular in most industries in the late 1880s whereby it was acclaimed to be a medicine by soft drink manufacturing companies like Coke (Ousey and Mathew 3). Cocaine was at fist used in the 20th century as an additive in soft drinks by Coca Cola. In medicine, it was used for pain relief for various health conditions and in surgical operations. However, following an outrage about the dependence, abuse and addiction of the drug in the 1920s, it was declared by the government to be unfit for human consumption. This led to the discontinuation of its application as a medical drug. Besides, it was also declared illegal for anyone to use, sell or peddle cocaine.
This led to the increased popularity of cocaine among the youth in the late 1960s and 1970s during the times of rock and roll revolution. The drug became widely abused during this period due to the feeling of ‘highness’ and being ‘cool’ that was associated with it. Owing to the expensive nature of the drug that saw it going for about $50 to $100, it was mainly used by the Caucasian Americans that resided in the urban centers and the suburbs (Grogger and Michael 521). Cocaine was rare among the majority of the black community during this period and only the rich African Americans could afford it (Ousey and Mathew 18).
The production and processing of crack was redefined in 1979 by the poverty stricken Donnell ‘’Freeway Ricky’’ Ross. He discovered and more simple and safe method of processing cocaine for consumption. He used ammonia and baking soda, instead of ether, in the production of cocaine, thereby creating a finished product known as ‘ready rocky.’ At first, this ‘rock’ was mainly available for sale to the rich and middle class, and elite African Americans. However, the sales pure cocaine began to go down during this period, thereby necessitating the need for change of the marketing structure and increase in client base. As a result of this, crack cocaine was identified as the ideal way that could earn the drug dealers money.
Integration of the drug into the Black Community
The packaging of cocaine was done in smaller packs that were sold cheaply to the users, thereby resulting into an upsurge in the volumes of crack sold on the streets, compared to cocaine. It the early 1980s, it was estimated that crack generated almost double profits in sales compared to cocaine (Grogger and Michael 527). Thus, this presented a potential business opening for drug dealers to venture into. Between 1980 and 1985, the proliferation of the use, sales and abuse of the drugs significantly increased among the blacks. During this period, it was reported that an estimated 30% of the black community was jobless (Ousey and Mathew 30). As a result of this, the population was undergoing the stress of providing for their families and many lived in poverty (Grogger and Michael 527). The introduction of crack cocaine presented a better way for the people to escape the harsh realities of life.
Crack cocaine became highly popular among this community because of its impurities and instant ‘high’ effect. Besides, the blacks also felt represented since it was during this period that they were at last able to afford the drug that was once considered a reserve of the rick Caucasian Americans only. The use and abuse of crack significantly rose in the mid 1980s among the African Americans living in the inner cities and ghettos like New York, Miami, Oakland, and Los Angeles. This was stirred up by the immediate high effect of the drug on users coupled with its safer processing that involved the use of inflammable solvents like ether (Ousey and Mathew 27). This led to the proliferation of crack into the ghettos, thereby impacting an upsurge in the number of peddlers and barons in these areas.
However, the consequences of the use of crack among the black community were dire and negatively impacted the society. In education, several high school graduates between 1980 and 1990 reduced to about 25%, especially among the males (Vaughn, Quan, Perron, Bohnert & Howard 181). Living in the ghettos during this period was very risky due to the high level of insecurity. The increased use and addiction of crack meant that the users had to look for money that was mainly obtained through theft that could sometimes turn out into violence.
It was also during this period that violent gangs began to rise up. These gangs were mainly involved in theft and caused unrest that threatened security within the neighborhoods. Also, because of the easy method of crack production, and market share, there was a significant increase in drug peddlers and dealers. This culminated into violent turf wars that resulted in deaths and injuries to several people in society. As a result of this, causes of homicides and assault also shot up to about 50% among the blacks (Vaughn, Quan, Perron, Bohnert & Howard 185). Besides, there was also a considerable increase in the number of arrests.
The high rates of unemployment within the black community led so many youths to the drug business that could generate lots of money fast. Most of the drug dealers drove flashy cars and had lots of money to spend, thereby attracting the youth into achieving that kind of lifestyle by all means. Many of the youths were arrested during this period. In fact, the young had three options for survival in society that included death, incarceration or getting rich through dealing in drugs (Vaughn, Quan, Perron, Bohnert & Howard 187). This is the kind of lifestyle that is showcased in hip-hop songs. The black American youth believed that the thug lifestyle that involved drugs, money, incarceration and danger was quite interesting and made the lifestyle of the ghetto to be one that was highly sought after. The bigger heads in hip hop like Snoop Dogg and Master P have made confessions to having been attracted to these lifestyles as a result of the harsh living standards experienced in the ghettos. They have produced numerous songs portraying the lifestyles, dangers and the period of high profit making ventures through sales of crack in the ghetto.
However, journalist Gary Webb points out that the proliferation of the use of crack cocaine in the 1980s among the black communities was a conspiracy by the CIA aimed at the alleviation of poverty in the ghettos by exposing the population to chronic drugs that could potentially kill many of them. Besides, the high cases of homicides reported in the ghettos and inner cities also contributed to the high number of deaths resulting from the influence of crack. His articles titled, ‘Dark Alliance’ reveal that the CIA achieved its objective since thousands of blacks died either through drug overdose or homicide marred by occasional turf wars within the neighborhoods (Webb 102). These articles bore the implication that the CIA had colluded with drug barons to undertake the shipment and distribution of crack especially to the inner cities and ghettos where the majority of the African Americans resided. However, a senate hearing and investigations reported that the CIA was not involved in any plan of that kind. Besides, Gary Webb made a confession that the article was mainly based on personal opinion since it did not have concrete evidence to prove the conspiracy theories of the involvement of the CIA (Webb 165). Thus, the impact of crack on the black community in America has been evident and resulted into the loss of many lives and incarcerations. It is also believed to be the reason behind the higher population of African Americans in the prisons.
Gwynne, Kristen. 4 biggest myths about crack: For U.S. politicians, targeting drug users in black communities is easier than addressing poverty and unemployment. Salon. 10 August 2013. Web.
Grogger, Jeff, and Michael, Willis. The Emergence of Crack Cocaine and the Rise in Urban Crime Rates, Review of Economics and Statistics, 82 (2000): 519-529.
Ousey, Graham, and Matthew, Lee. Investigating the Connections between race, illicit drug markets, and lethal violence, 1984-1997. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 40 (2004): 1-32.
Vaughn, G. Michael, Fu, Quan, Perron, Brian.E., Bohnert, S. Amy, & Howard, M.Owen. Is crack cocaine use associated with greater violence than powdered cocaine use? Results from a national sample. The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 36(2010): 181-186.
Webb, Gary. The Killing Game. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2011. Print.