The Dangers of Crack Cocaine Abuse by the Numbers
Crack cocaine is inhaled into the lungs by smoking. Once in the lungs, the drug is absorbed into the bloodstream almost as rapidly as it would be by injection.
Fast Facts About the Dangers of Cocaine Use
- Smoking crack cocaine has an immediate euphoric effect that only lasts 5-10 minutes.
- 15,883 people died of an overdose involving cocaine in 2019.
- 505,224 (or roughly 40%) of all drug-related emergency room visits involved some form of cocaine.
Crack cocaine can cause long-term and short-term negative side effects including:
- Raised stress hormones
- Damage to the orbital frontal cortex (causing poor decision making and lack of self-awareness)
- Increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure
- Erratic and violent behavior
- Cardiovascular effects (heart attacks and irregular heart rhythm)
- Lung damage and worsened asthma
- Panic attacks, paranoia, and psychosis
Crack Cocaine Statistics by Race & Ethnicity
People of all races are at risk of developing a dangerous cocaine habit. African Americans are more likely to use the smokable crack version of cocaine than other races. There is some evidence that this difference may be correlated to socioeconomic status. Crack cocaine can be bought in smaller quantities and therefore lower prices than powder cocaine.
Data from the 2013 National Survey of Drug Use and Health:
|Lifetime Cocaine Use (Any Form)||16.9%||9.7%||11.6%|
|Past-year Cocaine Use (Any Form)||1.9%||1.8%||1.7%|
|Lifetime Crack Cocaine Use||3.7%||4.6%||1.7%|
|Past-year Crack Cocaine Use||0.3%||0.8%||0.1%|
Cocaine, especially in the form of crack, has had some devastating effects on the African American community. Institutionalized racism and harsh sentencing rates for crack possession have arguably had a worse impact on African Americans than the negative health effects of the drug itself.
Crack cocaine users are more likely to be arrested than powder cocaine users and are subject to much harsher sentencing laws.
- From 1986 to 2010, the minimum sentence was the same for 100 grams of cocaine as it was for 1 gram of crack cocaine. Since 2010 it has been 18:1.
- African Americans account for 37% of arrests, 54% of convictions, and 74% of sentences for drug offenses but only account for 15% of regular drug users.
- 83% of Americans arrested for crack trafficking offenses are Black
- In 2003, Black Americans made up 80% of crack offense arrests even though 66% of crack users are White or Hispanic.
How Crack Cocaine Affects Young People
The age group with the highest cocaine use (of any form) is 18 to 25 years old. 1.4 percent of young adults in that age group have reported past-month cocaine use.
Crack cocaine is not highly popular among adolescents. Adolescents are significantly more likely to use powder cocaine or other illicit drugs than crack cocaine.
Percent of adolescents who reported cocaine and/or crack cocaine use in 2020:
|8th graders||10th graders||12th graders|
Statistics in Women vs. Men
Women are less likely than men to use cocaine in any form, including crack.
According to data from the U.S. in 2019:
- 1.5% of women or 2.1 million used cocaine, including crack, in the past year.
- Cocaine was the third most popular illicit drug group behind only marijuana and psychotherapeutics for women.
- About 1000 pregnant women reported using crack cocaine in the past year.
Statistics in the LGBTQ+ Community
In 2019, about 1 million or 7.1% of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual (LGB) adults in the U.S. used cocaine in the past year, including crack cocaine. Cocaine use increased slightly for LGB adults from the previous year.
- 126,000 or 2.5% of LGB Adults ages 18-25 used cocaine in the past year
- 262,000 or 2.7% of LGB Adults ages 26+ used cocaine in the past year
Cocaine is highly addictive and dangerous in all forms. We don’t know what percentage of these LGB cocaine users were specifically smoking crack cocaine. The rising use of cocaine in the LGBTQ+ community is concerning regardless of the form.
Treatment Types and How to Get Help
Cocaine addiction is usually treated with behavioral therapies. One popular approach is a reward-based system to encourage abstinence from cocaine. There are also some promising medications and vaccines being studied in clinical trials. There are not currently any Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications to treat cocaine addiction.
63,912 people were admitted to rehabilitation programs for the abuse of crack cocaine in 2019. Crack cocaine users make up 3.4% of admissions to treatment programs.
Crack cocaine can have serious, damaging effects on a person’s brain and body. Anyone struggling with a crack cocaine addiction should try to get treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) 2019 Admissions to and Discharges From Publicly Funded Substance Use Treatment. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt35314/2019_TEDS_Proof.pdf
Palamar, J. J., Davies, S., Ompad, D. C., Cleland, C. M., & Weitzman, M. (2015). Powder cocaine and crack use in the United States: an examination of risk for arrest and socioeconomic disparities in use. Drug and alcohol dependence, 149, 108–116. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4533860/
Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs | National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nida). (2020). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs
Overdose Death Rates | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). (2021). Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Women. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt31102/2019NSDUH-Women/Women%202019%20NSDUH.pdf
NIDA. 2021, July 9. What is Cocaine?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/cocaine/what-cocaine