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January 2006
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Crack perspective

Interesting article by Sharon Lerner in the Village Voice, Anatomy of a Drug Craze: Why Tough Laws Can’t Claim Credit For Beating Back Crack
Decades after the hysteria of the crack “epidemic,” and the legacy of bad law (including racist bad law) that emerged and damaged our society far more than any drug epidemic could, it is now possible to analyze and understand.

But while tough sentencing laws were effective in filling the prisons, drug experts say they had little to do with crack’s decline.
[…]
So if the war on drugs didn’t stamp out crack–and even made a bigger mess where the drug left off–why is crack receding to whatever extent it is? Experts say the answer lies in who has stopped using it–and who hasn’t. The average age of those still smoking crack has increased over the past 10 years, with the largest group of users now in their thirties. Thus the “little brother theory”: kids who have seen their older relatives and friends messed up by crack decide against using it themselves. “Crack is the lowest rung on the nasty-dirty ladder now,” says John Galea, who runs the Street Studies Unit for the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “Kids just don’t think it’s cool anymore. Even heroin addicts look down on crackheads now.”
Some researchers say the little brother effect points to the beginning of the end for crack.
But they also say that crack would be on the decline with or without its bad reputation, simply because most drugs enjoy only a limited heyday.
Illegal drug fads typically go from incubation to plateau to decline over a period of years ( though some, like heroin, will go through the process many times, resurging in popularity as their bad reps fade from memory ).

It’s a very interesting article (read the part about how law enforcement actually made things worse), and it’s nice to see someone in the media taking a look backward to, maybe, learn something.
I suspect that there’s a lot this could teach us about our current meth “epidemic” as well. (Speaking of which, check out Jan Frel’s post Meth! Meth Disaster at Alternet (via TalkLeft).)

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