Does Crack Induce Violence?
Crack has been accused of inducing violent behavior. Inhaling vaporized crack induces a more intense ‘high’ than sniffing powder cocaine, and most crack users’ reaction to the drug is to enjoy the experience in a solitary or contained environment. Powder cocaine is somewhat different in this respect. Some users take powder cocaine to enhance daily activities – in order to work more effectively, to concentrate, to stay awake longer, or to feel more at ease in social situations. Powder cocaine users are more likely to interact with society while intoxicated thus increasing the chance of an altercation between the user and other individuals.
An important 1988 study of homicides New York City found that in all of the 414 homicide cases of that year, there were only 3 “psychopharmacological” homicides (homicides that resulted from the physical effects of the drug itself) involving crack – and in 2 of those cases the crack user was the victim. The study also found that only 8 homicides were economically motivated (the homicide occurred in the course of robbing people for money to buy crack). At the same time, 100 homicides, or 85 percent of all crack related homicides, were “systemic” and resulted from the illegal nature of the drug market. These homicides were between dealers or dealers and users in an illegal drug market is inherently violent. The assertion that crack causes violence through its use and its effects on the brain is not upheld upon inspection. Rather, crack only leads to violence because it is part of an illegal market.
It is important to compare the perceived threat of violence from crack use to statistical evidence showing connections between other drugs and violence. For example, the Bureau of Justice and Statistics reported in 2002 that in most cases of domestic violence (75% of spousal abuse incidents), alcohol was a factor. Hysteria surrounding violence and illegal drug use can often overshadow the connection between alcohol use and violence.
(The contrasting effects of powder cocaine and crack cocaine are discussed fully in the book “Cocaine Changes – the experience of using and quitting” Waldorf, Reinarman and Murphy, 1991, Temple University Press)
(The authors discuss their findings in “Crack and Homicide in New York City”, Goldstein, Brownstein, Ryan and Bellucci, in Crack in America, Reinarman and Levine (eds) 1997, University of California Press)