WHAT IS CRACK?
Crack is a derivative of Cocaine. It is simply and cheaply prepared for smoking by being mixed with bicarbonate of soda. The preparation process frees cocaine alkaloid from its hydrochloride salt, allowing it to vaporise at a lower temperature. Inhalation into the lungs provides a speedy way for the narcotic to enter the blood stream much more quickly than by injecting or 'snorting' untreated cocaine. The name 'Crack' comes from the noise made when smoking the substance, which looks like small white pellets.
Because the absorption of modified cocaine into the system is more efficient, the user experiences a proportionately greater 'high' than by using an unprocessed product. This produces a strong incentive to take more of the substance and 'bingeing' is said to be a characteristic of crack use. A further incentive is that withdrawal effects, like the initial ones, are much intensified in nature and include:- extreme agitation; paranoia; toxic psychosis; extreme mood swings; eating disorders and respiratory problems. Death from respiratory arrest is possible after large doses.
Because of the particular characteristics of this drug, it is more than usually addictive. Psychological addiction is likely to develop rapidly. Withdrawal is more difficult.
THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Information coming out of the USA broadly depicts a crack epidemic, which has been going on for about the last 8 years. Virtually all the information, including the information being given out by official sources in this country, is based on Press accounts of what is happening in America. It is remarkable that a social and cultural disrupter as powerful as crack is said to be has not generated an academic response, in the form of a research-based programme, or a professional one, aimed at quantifying damage and constructing intervention techniques. If this substance does take hold in the UK, the absence of these things will be a serious disadvantage.
Strong links are claimed between crack use and violence. Police in the USA report an increase in one community of 200.0% in street crime over 2 years and relate this in crease to crack. 83.0% of men arrested in Manhattan recently for non-drug related offences, had traces of cocaine in their bodies. In the 12 months, 1986-7, hospital casualty admission figures in three areas where crack had become endemic increased by between 80.0% and 120.0% .
AVAILABILITY IN BRITAIN
Crack use is presently small in the UK. It has only been apparent to drug agencies for about 5 years and then only at a low but rising level. The British media is very interested in anything and everything to do with crack and there is a real danger that press attention may stimulate interest in this drug, particularly as official responses so far have been uncritical of the nature of the information which we are receiving and not therapeutically oriented.
Crack currently sells for about £10.00 for a 'hit,' in the U.K. If it takes hold, the price can be expected to reduce very radically.