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introduction: a disproportionate number of african americans are arrested for crack cocaine offenses. while the crack cocaine epidemic peaked in the early 1990s, increasing disparity in arrest rates persists. the primary aim of this study was to examine whether race, neighborhood and socioeconomic status (ses) were related to crack cocaine use and if there was a difference between those who were arrested for a crack cocaine offense and those who were not. a secondary aim was to examine the relationship between arrest and crack cocaine use.
participants: from the neon and new trials, the present analysis included adults who were either arrested or not arrested for a crack cocaine offense in the 12 months prior to the trials. in the neon trial, 1,285 were arrested for crack cocaine offenses, and in the new trial, 2,242 were arrested. of these, 2,034 provided substance use data. in the new trial, 1,836 individuals were arrested for crack cocaine offenses, and 1,418 provided substance use data.
measures: the dependent variable in both studies was the reported lifetime use of crack cocaine. data on arrest history were collected for the 12 months preceding each study, whereas substance use data were collected in the 6 months preceding each study. substance use variables included the prevalence of cocaine use, past-year crack cocaine use, past-year cocaine use and crack cocaine use in the past 30 days, cocaine use in the past 6 months, and cocaine use in the past 30 days. in addition, the numbers of days in the past 30 days with cocaine use and cocaine use in the past 30 days were calculated.
conclusions there is evidence to suggest that crack cocaine use is associated with mental and other health outcomes such as neonatal health and mortality; and sexually transmitted diseases (hiv, hepatitis c virus, other). there is limited evidence to suggest that crack cocaine use is linked to violence. the evidence on the impact of crack cocaine use on the hiv epidemic is mixed, but negative effects have been found. the evidence on the effectiveness of a range of prevention and treatment interventions is limited, but there is some evidence to suggest that treatment in the community can reduce crack cocaine use.
more than 30 years have passed since the last crack epidemic. while the crack epidemic was real, there is no evidence that either cocaine or crack caused the death toll that has been attributed to crack. in fact, crack has been demonized as the culprit in the rise of the crack epidemic. it is important to remember that when the crack epidemic reached its height in the late 1980s, there were fewer than 20,000 arrests for possession of crack cocaine annually, yet annual arrests for crack cocaine more than doubled to 57,000 in the 1990s.
a review of the scientific literature reveals that crack and powder cocaine are equally addictive and both are associated with significant physiological and psychological harms. crack cocaine is not a new phenomenon. the cocaine, crack and cocaine powder markets have co-existed for a long time, and to this day there is no evidence that cocaine is any more addictive than powder cocaine. the cocaine market has been around for a very long time and the notion that crack is somehow more addictive or a more deadly drug is simply not supported by the scientific evidence.