This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
The United States Government has been fighting the War on Drugs for decades. Never has it seen a drug as potent and powerful as crack cocaine. What became known as the Crack Epidemic first emerged on inner-city streets in the mid 1980’s. From there, it spiraled out of control over the next several years until millions were affected. During these years, from 1985 through the early 1990s, government spent billions of dollars in effort to curtail use of crack. In fact the use of crack subsided dramatically in less than ten years. At first, it might seem the government’s crackdown on crack worked; that the vast resources spent on various forms of enforcement achieved the intended effect. But how effective was the government’s handling of the crack epidemic really? Many who have studied the crack years of the War on Drugs say the government’s efforts actually had little effect on crack use- and that some of the government’s remedies not only failed to solve the alarming problems of crack use, but actually created other costly social problems. Crack cocaine first appeared on the streets of New York City and Los Angeles in 1985. It is unclear as to who invented it or whether it was first discovered in New York or Los Angeles. There is no “Father of Crack” as Stanley Owsley was to LSD. This is because the production of crack is very simple and was most likely created by serendipity by any experimenting cocaine user or dealer. To manufacture crack, one simply must mix powder cocaine with baking soda and water to make a paste of thick consistency. This is then
Therefore. While only the affluent could afford powder. Crack’s severe effects on the heart sometimes lead to death on first use. The nature of crack is that the very strong high is brief. In addition. One high’s worth of powder cocaine usually costs $100.” often became victims of other . such as heroin. which is then broken up into smaller rocks that look like clumps of soap or sugar.heated on a stove. are absorbed into the bloodstream and the effect is much more potent. (Berger 35) Given the dire consequences of crack addiction and the high number of poor female users. These women. crack was affordable and available in poor inner city communities. (Berger 54-57) Because so many little rocks can be made from small amounts of cocaine. paranoia. The vials are good for one high. and severe weight loss. high blood pressure. Hospitals were flooded with in the late 1980s with crack addicts experiencing seizures. The product is a large off-white rock. vials of crack usually run for $10 and sometimes even as low as $5. Crack had disastrous effects in part because it could be paid for initially by a minimumwage job or even an allowance. shortlived high can quickly turn into an addiction costing upwards of $100 a day. when smoked. A few of these rocks are then put into a small vial and are ready for sale. It also wasn’t rare to see someone cash in a welfare check and go straight to his or her crack dealer. The result was a substantial number of women resorting to prostitution to get their fix. These crack rocks. a cheap. heart disorders. (Berger 29) The effects of crack on the user go way beyond the financial cost. often labeled “crack whores. women often found themselves doing everything possible to maintain their addictions. and an almost immediate craving for another fix follows it. the psychological and physical effects of crack dependency and withdrawal are as severe as they are for the most powerful drugs available.
they were what was became known as “crack babies. and suffer emotionally. crack babies tremble upon being touched. Often they die within months. (Berger 41) As it proved almost impossible for crack addicts to maintain a job and a crack addiction. don’t grow according to schedule. Very little the administration did.867 murders were directly related to crack use. intestines. Inner city crime rates soared during the late 1980s and into the early 1990’s. Crack babies experienced many developmental problems. many addicts resorted to crime as a means of obtaining the money to get their fix.as a crime. and are unable to focus their eyes. The Reagan administration saw almost everything related to crack. The president at the time of crack’s emergence and escalation was republican Ronald Reagan. This. do not have the natural instinct to suck. (Sterk 107) When the babies were born.problems. After birth. over 100. often picking fights upon reaching school age. genitals. and kidneys. sale. and use. Furthermore.000 babies were born with pre-natal exposure to crack.it’s manufacture.” In 1992. many were born with malformed spinal cords. they may experience strokes and seizures.and the political need to appear to be solving the crack problemshaped everything the Reagan government did to deal with crack. As they grow older. As a result. acknowledged that drug addiction is a treatable disease and not a brooding enemy that can be fought. This resulted in great numbers of miscarriages and abortions. about half of the record 1. . (Berger 44) As the aforementioned disturbing effects of crack cocaine became obvious to the American populace. it soon became a major concern with the government as well. such as sexually transmitted diseases. the devastating combination of women and crack and sex led to pregnancy. many found themselves unemployed and in need of money to fund their habit. In 1988.
he proposed to cut $225 million from the 1988 drug enforcement budget.In the 1986 mid-term elections. the Drug Enforcement Agency. along with a 60% cut from drug education and prevention. The idea was to scare everyone away from crack and not just let users off with probation. the number one concern among voters was drugs (above the Cold War and nuclear weapons). he passed the mandatory minimum laws which specifically targeted innercity crack users. (WallaceWells) The mandatory minimum laws made it seem as though there was somewhat of a racial bias in the U.” It seemed fair and reasonable that a presidential candidate would make the general public’s concern his own concern. Ronald Reagan made drugs his own number one priority for his last two years in office. Within months. government’s treatment of the crack epidemic. a district court judge ruled that the mandatory minimum laws were unconstitutional. Many conspiracy theories started to evolve. These laws levied penalties as harsh for crack users in the ghetto as those for wealthy suburban businessmen possessing 100 times more powder cocaine. implying that the government administered crack to oppress them.S. African-Americans couldn’t help but think they were being targeted. since the elections. and prosecutors to lock up dealers and users alike. She noted that there was a clear bias as . while providing no additional money for treatment. Reagan gave great power to the police. In New Jersey. This only worsened the social divide of the time. Thus. In 1986. However. He claimed he would begin a “national crusade against drugs. These laws made it so that anyone possessing crack would automatically face jail time. his idea of a “crusade against drugs” was quickly abandoned. (Falco) To make it seem as though he really was tough on drugs. about a year into crack’s manifestation.
they began to work vigilante missions for the Florida police to target inner-city crack users in operation “Krush Krack Kocaine. border. Thus. when the drug police of these countries intervene. Likewise.S. The mission for a national sentiment of security translated into Reagan’s foreign drug policy as well. 92% of those arrested for crack possession were black while 85% of those arrested with powder cocaine were white. and traffickers abruptly shoot at them. The goal was to give incentive to divert farmers from growing it and to provide resources for those countries’ drug enforcement officials and police to take down major cartels. processors. no government saw any reason in taking away such an integral part of its economy. the U. “A Law Distinguishing Crack From Other Cocaine is Upset”) Even the dilapidated Ku Klux Klan noticed the ethnic divide associated with crack.S.S. In Florida. the Reagan domestic drug policy barely strayed from its general goal: give the impression that the epidemic is under control and that we’re toughening up.” (AP. “Klan’s Anti-Drug Drive Raises Suspicion”) Although it may have seemed misguided and unfair. (Berger 67-69) Military action in the Reagan’s war on drugs extended only to the U.there was a mandatory 4-year sentence for first-time crack users while it was only one year for powder cocaine. farmers. This was largely ineffective as over one million farmers and laborers depend on the cultivation and processing of cocaine to support their families. Government officials say that there was no decline in production in the countries that received the most funding from the U. .S. She cited that in 1988. Since the early seventies. and leftist rebels (supported by drug trafficking money) alike. which cultivated and exported coca into the U. government has given millions of dollars to countries such as Colombia and Peru. (AP.
Another flaw was readily pointed out by Professor Mark Kleiman of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “just say no” in her campaign for better drug education and prevention among kids. These surveys omit school dropouts. She pleaded.Reagan set up special military task forces along the Mexican border and in south Florida. (Falco) Although he didn’t follow through on the crusade. Mrs. Over the course of her husband’s two terms. For instance.3 million used cocaine in some form weekly. the government sponsored one-dimensional drug surveys to make it appear as though drug use was declining. the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimated in 1988 that there were 862.000 was derived from the 65 out of 8.814 people surveyed who admitted to using crack or cocaine weekly. prisoners. (Berger 72) For many. Nancy Reagan. In an administration defined by contradiction. This number.000 users of crack or powder cocaine while official urinalysis tests of arrestees show that about 1. as there was virtually no impact on the supply or price of cocaine in the states. users of other drugs. both major hot spots for smugglers. “a . 862. This does not even take into account the vast number of users who don’t get arrested. the most memorable part of Ronald Reagan’s anti-drug policy was actually that of his First Lady. She became somewhat of a joke to many Americans as she chanted the empty proposal. To pacify the weary nation. Ronald Reagan did everything in his power to make it seem like he was winning the war on drugs. This distorts the data to a great degree. “just say no” with school kids across the nation. they were rather miniscule in the grander scheme. and the homeless. These few busts were highly publicized to seem significant to placate the American populace. funds for drug education and prevention were cut in half. Although several major busts were made. Reagan stood as a shameful example.
He believed that the border policing was a waste of money that yielded almost no progress. The idea was to create an organization with some sort of direction with regards to drugs.and throw an entire generation of drug users in jail. the director of which would become known as the “drug czar.lot of people just won’t tell the nice man from the government that they smoked crack recently. the drug czar in power has defined drug policies of a given era just as much as the presidential administration in power. (“The Drug Czar’s Coherent Legacy”) This policy was no more effective than Reagan’s as even more money was spent and coca production increased. His rationale was that if he could bring down production of coca in South America with military efforts. he set forth a strike at the source policy. (“The Drug Czar’s Coherent Legacy”) William Bennett saw the inefficiency of the Reagan administration drug policy. Bennett would remain drug czar two years into George Bush I’s administration and through the peak of the crack epidemic. congress created the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).” With the creation of the ONDCP.” (Whitman) As it became clear that Reagan himself had little direction with his drug control policies. (Berger 69) As Ben Wallace-Wells summed up his policies as czar. America would vanquish its foe with torpedoes and F-16s. The first drug czar would be William Bennett. Toward the end of Reagan’s second term. “if narcotics were the enemy. congress decided it had to do something. other than to deceive satisfy the fretful public. With regards to foreign policy. Bennett had confidence in the high efficiency of community policing to better neighborhoods tarnished by crack.” . then he would be able to shoot up the prices for cocaine in the states.
by credible figures.S. Studies show that there were few first time users of crack in ’90 and ’91. drug imports from time to time. was charged with analyzing the federal government’s $13 million drug-war budget and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. “Overseas military efforts were the least effective way to decrease drug use. A few who were lucky got treatment. and imprisoning addicts was prohibitively expensive. many died or had gone to jail. “If you had asked me at the outset. a mathematical modeler. (“Crack May Be Cracking”) The problem. my guess would have been that the best use of taxpayer money was in the source countries in South America. is that criminalization is vastly inefficient. The mandatory minimum laws took many crack addicts off the streets and put them in jail.It was during Bennett’s reign as drug czar when crack use and demand both dropped significantly. the Clinton administration engaged the Rand Corporation to study the previous 15 years’ federal drug policies.S. But the Rand study found otherwise. In 1993. and sometimes creates new social problems. that it would be possible to stop cocaine before it reached the U. Rand’s Susan Everingham. the people most vulnerable to crack use – those who were exposed to it and tempted by it – had tried it. If they became addicted. Many believe the decline in the first-time use of crack reflects the very nature of addiction to a deadly drug. Border patrols and drug enforcement arrangements with foreign supplier nations interrupted or reduced U. After several years. .” Everingham said. fails to address the nature of the problem of addiction. some say. (“Crack May Be Cracking’) Did the criminalization of America’s crack epidemic solve the problem? Certainly tough prosecution had some effect.
getting into trouble. Treating addicts as criminals just doesn’t work. government wasted billions of dollars and countless lives in this aimless phenomenon we call the crack epidemic. an undercover detective at the height of the crack epidemic and former and drug czar under the Clinton administration.S.” Brown said. “You see the cycle over and over again of people using drugs.The only cost-effective way to put a dent in the market. both in human terms and dollars. Drug use is a problem of addiction. was drug treatment. A California study found that every dollar spent by society on drug treatment saved more than $11 in social costs. The costs. and some judges agreed. it turned out. lost labor productivity. getting out and getting into drugs again… What impact is all of this having on the drug problem? There has to be a better way.” (Wallace-Wells) At least some in drug enforcement. Lee Brown. (“Crack May Be Cracking”) Thus has the U. and health care. going to prison. he says. “You see very quickly that you can’t arrest your way out of this. These government’s tough enforcement measures and minimum sentencing laws also fanned the flames of racism in the country.crime. health care and government believe the better way is a way that focuses as much or more on prevention and treatment than criminalization.” (Wallace-Wells). . are too great not to. believes many tough enforcement measures miss the point. African-Americans felt as though they were being unfairly targeted.