Cocaine has been a white-collar drug for the past years, as seen in popular media culture, from music to movies. Take the cult movie classic Wolf of Wall Street.

This movie was set in the 1980s, when using cocaine was quite popular and even a socially normal thing to do.

The Wolf of Wall Street is an example of when even using fake coke for over seven months every day caused some actors to develop bronchitis and even feel sick.

Imagine the effects using actual cocaine would have on an individual and what it’s even more potent form could do. The smokeable version of cocaine is known as crack.

Cocaine is usually found in powder form, while crack is the rock form. Today, the purity of crack is highly risky, with the chance of it being cut with drywall and rat poison even.

However, this was a different story in the 1980s when the crack epidemic was at its zenith, and the US started its war on drugs.




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10 /10 What Is Crack?

The term “crack” was first seen in a New York Times article in 1985 to describe cocaine shipped to the United States, coming most often from Colombia and into Miami.

While crack traveled through the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, the price of cocaine there dropped to a fiercely low price.

From there, it would head to Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, Miami, Houston, New York, and more.




9 /10 Running The Numbers

Between 1982 and 1985, over 1.6 million more people started using cocaine. This was due to the intense and instant high that came from using crack.

This kept users coming back for more and more robust levels of addiction, leading to this higher number of users.

Crack was also easier to make, more cost-effective, cheaper to purchase, and therefore more accessible.

The cost of a vial was between $5 and $20, with a vial being about 1/10 of a gram of powdered cocaine.






8 /10 Side Effects Of Crack

Crack cocaine can cause hallucinations, seizures, paranoia, weight loss, and high blood pressure.

In fact, from 1984 to 1987, hospital visits to the emergency room quadrupled due to cocaine-related incidents, including overdoses, reactions, suicide attempts, detoxification, and side effects.

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7 /10 Where Does Crack Come From?

As dealers in the 80s faced dropping prices for their product, they had to change their merchandise’s form to continue to sell it.

Cocaine thus became crack, which was a solid, smokeable form able to be sold in smaller amounts to larger groups of people.

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6 /10 Issues With Purity

While crack initially had a higher purity than regular cocaine powder, issues with purity soon came into play starting in 1985.

In 1984, cocaine had a purity of 55% and cost $100 for a gram. Compared to crack, which was 80% pure and cost the same, regular cocaine had a much lower purity and cost more than crack.

5 /10 Rise In Hospitalizations

Starting in 1985, hospitalizations related to cocaine jumped nearly 12%.

Furthermore, in 1986, the hospitalization rate increased a further 110%.

From 1984 until 1987, incidences increased by almost 100,000. Again, by this time in 1987, cocaine was found in the District of Colombia and all but four states.

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4 /10 Response To Crack Epidemic

There still exists a hot debate over how the crack epidemic of the 1980s should have been handled. People believe it should have been treated with increased health care instead of dealing with police and prison.

This included having a more robust public health infrastructure with treatment clinics, housing, and other necessary resources that helped individuals rather than imprison them.

The result seen in the 80s was a higher rate of violent crime and a high rate of mass incarceration, particularly in black communities.

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3 /10 Impact On African American Communities

Many African American families were in lower-income, inner-city neighborhoods stemming from racial segregation and discriminatory practices.

The impact this had on African American communities was quite drastic. The homicide rate for black African Americans nearly doubled from 1984 to 1989 in the 14 to 17 and 18 to 24 age groups.

Additionally, the crack epidemic has also led to lasting correlations to crime, causing the murder rate of young black males to increase, even to the present day drastically.

This correlation was seen as drug dealers who dealt with people tended to have their exchanges in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods.

This allowed dealers to charge a lower minim price and for these inner-city residents to charge less for their crack cocaine.

Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta became increasingly popular for crack cocaine use and distribution as they were unorganized in their social and economic status.

2 /10 Issues With Sentencing

In 1986, US Congress passed several laws that allowed for a 100 to 1 sentencing disparity to exist for the possession or trafficking of crack compared to trafficking powder cocaine.

While these laws are touted to target mainly minorities, particularly African Americans, as they were more likely to use crack than powder cocaine, the ratio has been improved.

Before, people convicted with more than 5 grams of crack cocaine will receive at least a 5-year sentence in federal prison, compared to 500 grams of powder cocaine that has the same sentence.

However, in 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act sentencing disparity became 18:1 instead.

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1 /10 Fall Of Crack

While crack erupted into an epidemic, the new generation was not as prone to buying it as before.

The new generation soon began avoiding the drug after they realized the adverse effects experienced by the previous generation’s use of crack.

The crack epidemic exploded after extensive media coverage that further promoted it as an “epidemic.”

This contributed to its widespread use and extensive trafficking that occurred after this, causing the crack epidemic to be an example of moral panic.

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