Examination of Crack Cocaine Use by Race

There are an estimated one million regular users of crack cocaine in the United States. In 2015, the reported figure for individuals aged 12 or older involved in crack cocaine use was 9,035,000 for people that used the drug at least once in their lifetime. From low-income brackets to high-income brackets, from black people to white people, the use of crack cocaine is widely prevalent among a variety of demographics.

Crack cocaine is the crystal form of cocaine, which most commonly comes in the form of a powder and is smoked out of a pipe. It can also come in the form of solid blocks or crystals which vary in color from yellow to a pale rose or white. Cocaine is an illicit Schedule II substance that is a highly addictive drug. It is made from a native South American plant called the Coca plant. It primarily grows in the mountainous areas of Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru.

After the plant is harvested, it is processed in a way where it can be used as a powerful and highly potent stimulant drug. Crack cocaine use can cause a euphoric “high”, increased alertness, excited state, decreased appetite, and can also cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. The initial feelings of euphoria which are created by use of the drug are often quickly followed by intense feelings of depression and paranoia.

Crack Cocaine Use by Race

The media loves to typecast crack cocaine users as inner-city “crackheads” who are dirty and disheveled and spend their days begging for money to try and get enough to desperately chase down their next high. The uproar and prejudice against these crack users have been all the more sensationalized by racially profiled language, resulting in an immense amount of distorted and bias portrayals in the media. One study that was conducted back in 1995 revealed that a staggering 95 percent of individuals who were asked to picture a drug user, thought of a black person.

The public media, both print and visual, generally portray an image of African Americans as drug users. Contributing to this image is the higher rate of poverty among black people and the disproportionate amount of drug distributors in African American communities. There is also a tendency to use different normative standards to the types of drugs which are used by the black community and to believe that they are primarily responsible for drug trafficking.

As an unfortunate result, drug law enforcement officials may have an ethnically altered viewpoint, certain unique patterns that may characterize the drug crisis in varying communities may be ignored, and treatment options may not be available for the specific needs of various groups.

Drug Use by Race Statistics

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health that was conducted in 2012 was based on who had used crack cocaine in the past month and was race specific. Here are the results:

  • White people accounted for 55 percent.
  • Black people accounted for 37 percent.
  • Asian people accounted for 4 percent.
  • And Hispanic/Latino people accounted for another 4 percent.

The statistical truth is that most individuals who use crack cocaine are white, especially young white adults. When statistics from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health were reviewed, it found that 55 percent of individuals who used crack in the past month, were in fact white. Black Americans, who comprise 12.2 percent of our population, tallied in at 37 percent. That means that black people are 3.5 times more likely than whites to become regular abusers of crack. And black people are a staggering 21.2 times more likely than whites to go to federal prison on a crack charge. Similar statistics can be observed for powder cocaine use by race.

The amount of black people in the population of individuals who are abusing crack is continuing to drop. In this day and age, young white people are nine times more likely to try crack cocaine than that of young black people and the significant difference between the two races continues to rise. But when it comes to the older generations, white Americans are less likely to get involved with crack cocaine use than that of black Americans. However, that statistical pattern has not stood true among the younger generations of Americans for years.

Individuals who abuse crack cocaine have often been found to be used as a type of self-medicating to help them cope with some form of trauma, commonly childhood abuse. A particular study which was conducted in England found that in almost 60 percent of crack cocaine use cases, childhood abuse was a major contributing factor. This statistic would imply that many individuals who are abusing crack cocaine, are doing so to cope with traumatic events in their pasts, not out of a lack of fundamental morality or responsibility.

The majority of pregnant women who are addicted to crack are also victims of domestic violence in their personal relationships, according to National Advocates for Pregnant Women. The National Advocates for Pregnant Women also said, “Like Vietnam veterans who self-medicated with drugs for their post-traumatic stress disorders, at least some pregnant women also use drugs to numb the pain of violent and traumatic life experiences.

In Conclusion

Due to the stigmas revolving around crack use and media perversion, many Americans believe that individuals who abuse crack cocaine are criminals who should be removed from the general public and locked up in prison. But for the majority of crack users, it would be more beneficial to increase the availability of comprehensive addiction treatment and rehabilitation options, which would be a much better response to crack cocaine use than imprisonment, which often turns people out the same or worse than they were before incarceration.

To our detriment, certain white Americans may have the misguided notion that crack cocaine is a ‘black’ drug. Research shows the white Americans who associate blackness with criminality, are more likely support severe punishments for crime, suggesting a hidden belief that white transgressions can be corrected through rehabilitation while black transgressions should be corrected through punishment. As a result of this, countless individuals who would benefit from addiction treatment are instead sent to federal prisons, allowing the cycle of prejudice to continue.

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