Crack Cocaine: How it Affects the Individual and Society

                     Crack Cocaine: How This Addiction Affects the Individual and Society

                                                            By Lester Long Jr.

                                                           February 6, 2022


            Crack Cocaine was introduced in the United States during the latter part of the 1980s. Crack Cocaine is a version of Cocaine that is generally smoked through a pipe or other instrument.  Over the years, it has been considered one of the most addictive and potent drugs every introduced. Research has shown that some people can get addicted to Crack Cocaine after their first use. Crack Cocaine has been at the forefront of the destruction of many lives and families, not to mention one of the leading contributors to the overpopulated US prisons system. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) (2014) during the 1980s, Congress enacted several laws that sought to impose harsher sentences for individuals who even possessed the drug. According to FAMM these laws were a reaction to the death of Len Bias, the number one draft pick by the Boston Celtics, who died because of an overdose at his signing celebration party from the use of Powder Cocaine. Many in the public, misinformed, assumed that his death resulted from Crack.

His death created a fear by the public of a Crack Cocaine epidemic resulting in stuffer penalties for anyone caught using or possessing the drugs. FAMM (2014) explains that in 1988. Congress passed a law that called for more tighter sentences requiring a 5-year mandatory sentences for the possession of 5 grams of Crack. Addiction Center (2021) points out that because the of potency of the drug, overdose would at times occur even after their first use. Even though many of these newly enacted laws were intended to prevent deaths, the de facto result was longer sentences and harsher penalties. This great incarceration directly and unequally affected African Americans and other minorities. Drugpolicyfacts (2019) explains that from 1984 to 1995, an eleven-year period, the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) created in 1984, issued its first research report which showed that over 80% of Crack Cocaine offenders were African American. In 1995, the Commission attempted to amend the guidelines to equalize the disparities between the sentences for Crack Cocaine and Powder Cocaine. Congress rejected these changes. Apparently, many members believed that potency and the desire for the drug caused far greater criminal behaviors than Powder.

                                The Short- and Long-Term Effects of Crack Cocaine

            As with any other drug Crack Cocaine has an intoxicating effect on the Individual. Crack Cocaine as well as Powder is a in drug class known Stimulants. As such, there are both short-term and long-term effects of Crack. Crack Cocaine affects the brain by way of the pleasure/reward system. The Foundation of a Drug Free World (FDFW) (2006) explains that Crack Cocaine induces a short-term, intense high which is often followed by a depressive feeling resulting in feelings of anxiety, and a strong craving for the drug. Two of its more prominent features is that it decreases appetite and interferes with one’s ability to sleep. Other emotional and psychological effects in the short-term feeling paranoid, angry, hostile, anxious, even after coming down off the high. These symptoms are believed to be the bases behind the need by abusers to participate in other illegal activities such as stealing and robbery to address their cravings which either fellow and/or precede them. In addition to psychological effects that Crack Cocaine has on an Individual, it can have a very devastating effect physically. FDFW (2006) further point out that use of the drug may cause a heart attack, stroke, seizure, or respiratory failure, and worst of all sudden death.

                                                  The Long-Term Effects

            The long-term effects of Crack Cocaine addiction can be extremely devastating. Some of the long-term effect includes damage to the heart, severe respiratory problems, coughing, shortness of breath, permanent lung damage, liver disease. FDFW (2006) points out that in addition to these, those addicted to Crack are vulnerable to catching and passing an infectious disease. Long-term Crack use has been known to cause aggression in individual that are normally meek. It boosts a false confidence and causes one to believe that they are greater than their skill sets. Long-term use and/or abuse of Crack Cocaine may eventually cause long term severe depression; that has led some over the years to commit suicide. This is an issue that is not exclusive to the United States. The National Center for Biotechnology Center (2020) explains that in Brazil, the use of Crack Cocaine and suicide has become a major issue. A current large-scale study conducted in Brazilians resulted in showing that suicidal attempts as well as deaths in its general population was 9.9 and 5.4%, respectively. Among Crack-Cocaine users rates showed an escalation to 40.0 and 20.8%, respectively. Past studies have demonstrated that 47% of Crack-Cocaine users had a current suicide risk and a prevalence of suicidal behaviors of 30% in crack-cocaine addicts.  Suicide has been the study of psychiatry over the last decade but despite this, understanding the reasons behind this however is still a mystery; especially since this population present many psychosocial issues, as well as high rates of clinical and psychiatric conditions. In addition, little compliance to treatment, may also significantly factor in the suicidal behaviors. This study showed that Crack and Powder Cocaine are the leading illicit drugs that continues to increase demand for detoxification treatment. This is a major cost to the public health systems in Brazil.

               Ribiro et al (2006) conduct a follow-up study in San Paulo between 1995 to 1999 on Individual released from detoxification. All patients were individuals addicted to Crack Cocaine. The research study showed that after 5 years, out the 124 patience 23 (17%) had died. Homicide was the major cause, and another third were HIV related and 10% died of overdose. Although overdose appeared to be least cause of death the percentage of deaths after detox still remind high. The study concluded that the mortality risk among those addicted to Crack Cocaine users outweighs that seen in the general population when there is a percentages comparison.

                                            Crack Addiction and The Medical Model

The Medical Model of Addiction seems to best way to explain addiction to Crack Cocaine. Because the drug affects the region of the brain concerned with pleasure and reward, the desire to continue use of the drug becomes the predominate occupation of the user.  The Butler Center for Research (2021) explains that substance, and this includes Crack Cocaine, alters certain regions of the brain that are necessary for social interactions and life sustaining functions. When Crack is used, it affects primarily three regions of the brain. These areas include the basal ganglia, the extended amygdala, and prefrontal cortex. Addiction to Crack Cocaine has three stages associated with three components of activities: intoxication which affects reward and pleasure: withdrawal-a negative emotional state because one’s inability to induce the drug into the system; and preoccupation- the inability for the individual to function because of an overwhelming craving for the drug. In addition to the above-mentioned activities and functions, Crack Cocaine affects the ability to make good judgments, good decisions, ability to learn, memory, and may cause inappropriate behaviors.

The Medical Model of Addiction support the premise that Crack Cocaine is an addiction that affects the psychological, physical, spiritual aspects of the person. McIntyre (2018) posits that the Medical Model of Addiction explains that Crack Cocaine becomes Chronic, Progressive, and if not treated Fatal. He contends that, if not treated, it not only can cause death but gets out of control and causes an individual to feel useless and helpless even when they come down off the high. He points out that individuals with this type of addiction find themselves often restless, irritable, discontent.  Individuals on Crack Cocaine, like other addictive drugs, find that they lose interest in things they used to find pleasurable. They become pre-occupied and obsessed with drug. Family and friends are cast aside to make room for addictive behaviors.


There is no doubt that Crack Cocaine is one of the potent and powerful drugs every manufactured. It has had a destructive impact on both the Indiivdual as well as the society. Over the years, many people have died because of this drug whether from a direct cause such as overdose, suicide because depression caused by it In addition, it has led to overpopulation of prisons and the criminal justice system, and has separated and destroyed family relationships. Fortunately, the days of unfair mandatory sentencing for possessing small amounts appears to over and society is slowly but often reluctantly moving toward treatment rather punishment. However, these efforts are still not adequately funded. The National Association of Social Worker (2022) explains that states only spend about thirteen percent of their budgets on prevention and education, and many give very little to treatment programs that are design to serve the economic disadvantaged. In most States these are very ones whose neighborhoods tend to be infested with the drug.   As a substance abuse counseling, it has been amazing to see how when a drug such as Heroin, which currently seems to be the preferred drugs of the more affluent of our society is called an epidemic with treatment programs with the use of Medication Assistant Treatment is offered with full services to assist these addicts with recovery. When, those who addicted to Crack Cocaine some for years still seem have little hope of finding available bed space. Society has come a long way since the initial “War on Drugs” in the 1980s, but it still has a long way to go.


Addiction Center (2021), Understanding Crack Cocaine. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from

Benson, E. (2003), Rehabilitate or Punish. Monitor Vol 37 (7).  p.46

Butler Center for Research (2021), the Brain Disease Model of Addiction. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from

Drugpolicyfacts (2019), Total Annual Arrest in the US by Type of offense. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from

Families Against Mandatory Minimums (2014), A Brief History of Crack Cocaine Sentencing Laws. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from

Foundation of a Drug Free World (2006), Effects of Crack Cocaine. Retrieved February 6, 2022, from

National Association of Social Workers (2021) Blueprint for the States; Policies to Improve the Ways States Organize and Deliver Alcohol and Drug Prevention and Treatment.

National Center for Biotechnology Institute (2020), High Mortality Among Young Crack Cocaine Users in Brazil. Retrived February 6, 2022, from  

Ribeiro, M., Dunn, J., Sesso, R., Dias, A.C., & Laranjeira, R. (2006), Causes of Death Among Crack Cocaine Users. Braz J Psychiatry, 28 (3).  196-202.


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