A History of Crack Cocaine

crack vial

Emerging in the 1980s in urban circles around the world, crack cocaine known as the modern, cheaper, more destructive derivative of cocaine. It’s become a scourge of modern society, escalating the addictive effects of cocaine with far more dire health and societal consequences. Let’s trace the evolution of cocaine to crack cocaine over the years.

History Of Cocaine

Cocaine was initially derived from the South American coca plant in the mid-1800s for health and medicinal reasons. Native South American tribes had for years chewed the coca leaves for a stimulating source of alertness and energy. By the late 1800s, physicians began using cocaine in surgeries involving anesthesia. Later, doctors were prescribing cocaine to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental issues.

Commercial uses of cocaine were occurring then too. Chemist John Pemberton used cocaine in the syrup of an original wine drink formula known as French Wine Coca in the late 1800s to offer stimulation and help ease headaches. When prohibition was enacted in Atlanta, GA, Pemberton eliminated the wine, replacing it with sugar syrup, but he kept the cocaine in the formula. He died a few years later. But by 1901, the Coca-Cola company stopped using cocaine in its drink. With cocaine deaths on the rise in the early 1900s and health officials alarmed at the drug’s addictive side, cocaine for legal use was finally made unlawful in 1914 and banned in the USA thereafter.

History Of Crack Cocaine

The emergence of crack cocaine started in the 1970s and 1980s during the boom in cocaine’s recreational use. Nicaraguan drug rebels were exporting drugs for money, with the CIA’s covert assistance. Eventually, there became a glut in the market of too much cocaine and not enough profits for the drug dealers. So the dealers started cutting the cocaine with ammonia and sodium bicarbonate to add more heft to their cocaine loads. That was, in essence, the start of crack cocaine.

The first few U.S. cities to see a rise in crack use was New York, Los Angeles and Miami in the mid-1980s. Dealers in those cities yearned to sell more affordable packets of cocaine to users and found ways to sell ‘rocks’ in those cities, in which users would then heat and smoke. The crackling sound of the cocaine rocks popping brought forth the name ‘crack’ in modern drug lexicon. That is how the rise of crack cocaine began.

The Crack Cocaine Epidemic (1980s and 1990s)

The largest explosion of crack cocaine users originally occurred in the late 1980s with the spread of crack around the USA. One report showed that regular cocaine users numbered around 5 million people in 1985.

Crack’s usage grew in the inner, poorer neighborhoods, and multiple documentaries on drug abuse have shown crack houses spread throughout slum neighborhoods. Police squads across the country were constantly dealing with crack dealers, leading to high-profile drug busts.

Crack’s popularity remains high, despite the dangers, because it’s inexpensive to make, and cheap to buy compared to normal powder cocaine. However, today’s numbers of cocaine and crack cocaine users are fewer than they were at their peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That may be attributed to the increasing knowledge that young people know about cocaine. Or it may be that drug users are moving onto other forms of drugs, like opiates or marijuana, for recreational use.

Crack Cocaine Addiction

Crack cocaine is far more addictive than regular cocaine, which is likely due to the ingestion method. Crack is primarily cooked to a liquid, then smoked by the drug user, rather than snorted. Because the drug is smoked, it enters the bloodstream through the lungs and has a much more potent and dangerous effect on the brain. Users become highly addictive and seek the drug more often, as the crack high itself is short-lived. This then becomes a regular cycle of seeking a crack high, which can lead to chronic addiction.

Some of the strong symptoms of crack cocaine addiction include:

  • Cravings.
  • Fatigue or sleeplessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Psychosis.

Addiction to crack cocaine is a tough situation. It can cause a cycle of chemical dependency and addictive behavior. The skilled group of counselors and medical practitioners at The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help substance abusers get sober. Our individualized treatment programs can help you or a loved one on the path to recovery.

“John Smith Pemberton (1831-1888)” New Georgia Encyclopedia. Accessed January 23, 2017. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/john-stith-pemberton-1831-1888 “Easy to Read Drug Facts” DrugAbuse.gov. January 2017. Accessed January 23, 2017. https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/EasyToRead_CocaineFacts_012017.pdf “Crack Cocaine” Center for Substance Abuse Research. Accessed January 23, 2017. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/crack.asp “The Truth About Crack Cocaine” Foundation for A Drug Free World. Accessed January 23, 2017. http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/crackcocaine/effects-of-crack-cocaine.html

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.