A Brief History of Crack Cocaine
Made famous be media hysteria and inner city violence throughout the 1980s and 90s, crack is a fairly well known drug, at least in theory. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell much about it, other than it’s what the black kids do in Harlem and South LA. While those stereotypes proliferated in the past 30 years, the story is a little broader than that.
For starters, crack comes from the base drug cocaine, which is extracted from the leaves of the coca tree that grows in South America, especially in Columbia, Peru, and Bolivia. South Americans knew about the drug’s effects for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years and brought to Europe by the Spanish. It wasn’t until 1860, however, that its euphoric and anesthetic properties were discovered by scientists.
This was the first time the methods for proper extraction were available and opened the door for medical research.
Discovering cocaine and its effects led researchers to discover Novocain and Lidocaine, which are still used in modern medicine today. Cocaine, the rebel cousin, would go on to create plenty of hysteria across Europe and America, resulting in bans in 1914 and 1922. These acts halted domestic extraction in the States but the border with Mexico was far too wide to patrol in those days so the foreign imports began in force.
Throughout the 20th to ship from the Caribbean into southern Florida. As the Contra rebels in Nicaragua succeeded in getting a massive shipping operation in place, a surplus of cocaine was created in the US, forcing dealers to lower prices. To combat this, domestic dealers started to experiment and began to add sodium bicarbonate and ammonia to the coke powder in the hopes of jazzing it up and giving it more of a punch.
These techniques produced the first rock-like material that would later be known as Crack, which was essentially cocaine freebase, first appearing in US cities in 1981. The real mass market of crack began in Los Angeles in 1984. At the time, cocaine was being cut with 45% filler (common household products) which reduced the effects. Meanwhile, you could get crack for the same price and its purity was closer to 80%. Users accustomed to a certain amount of coke would overdose when taking the same amount of crack and hospitalizations from cocaine overdose doubled in a single year.
Add to the cheap cost the fact that crack was easier to smoke, vaporizing at 194°F, and you had a product that was instantly appealing to the poor in inner cities where money was hard to come by and drugs were too expensive. The appeal of crack was a cheap 15 minute escape from the devastating and harsh realities of the urban ghetto that lifted you up into heights of extreme euphoria and bliss. It hit hard and after that rush of dopamine, users were instantly hooked.
Crack cravings are incredibly intense and if you’re surrounded by poverty and depression, there’s not much else to look forward to. People turned to violence and theft to get their next fix and the whole pandemic of inner city violence was born. Tack onto this situation a police force that was rewarding century, the border with Mexico became increasingly controlled, forcing importers cops with significant bonuses for drug busts and you got a dramatic increase in non-violent arrests, targeted primarily in black inner city neighborhoods.
Crack ravaged America’s cities for a number of reasons and set race relations back several decades. It continues to claim the lives of people all over the world every day. It’s not controlled in any sense other than to make it “illegal” and punishable by life in a cage, which means that production is sketchy and you never know where the stuff is coming from and what it’s cut with.
Struggling with crack cocaine addiction is a monumental challenge and requires professional and medical support for success. Look into rehabilitation programs in your area if you need help getting off crack.