Crack Cocaine History

In this Crack Cocaine History we learn more about where cocaine comes from, when cocaine was first used, how crack cocaine became popular and other interesting facts and history on the origination and background of cocaine and crack cocaine.


Crack cocaine is a potent form of cocaine, which is a drug derived from the coca plant from South America. The coca plant has been used as a stimulant by the native people of South America for many centuries, but it wasn't until 1859 that modern cocaine was developed as a drug in Germany.

In the late 1800s many doctors, social elites, and average Americans used cocaine as a medical drug to ease pain and cure other ills. Cocaine was present in a variety of common products, including the soft drink Coca-Cola. By the early 1900s, however, the negative side effects of cocaine became apparent, including addiction and death. This prompted the US president in 1910 to declare cocaine a threat to the nation, and in 1914 cocaine became a controlled substance, only available under a doctor's supervision for medical reasons.

With the new restrictions on cocaine, it lost its popularity and became a relatively rare drug of abuse in the US. It was still used on a limited basis for medical purposes. In the 1960s and 70s its use began to increase again. By the mid-1970s the abuse of cocaine was widespread among people of all social and economic classes. At this point cocaine was mostly snorted in its powdered form. Some users injected cocaine, but few could afford to smoke the types of cocaine available at that time.

In the early 1980s, the cocaine market became glutted with an excess of the drug, causing cocaine prices to drop sharply. Cocaine sellers began to convert the excess cocaine into the crack form of cocaine. Crack cocaine could be smoked, which produced a fast, intense high, and it was cheap and easy to make.

Miami was one of the first cities to experience a surge in cocaine use associated with crack cocaine. Crack was cheap and effective for getting high, so it became very popular, especially among the middle class. It quickly spread to all classes of society and to the rest of the country. In just a few years, crack became a problem in almost every state in the nation, especially in major cities.

Crack had a dramatic affect on the nation's health. The number of people admitted to emergency rooms and addiction rehab programs because of crack use exploded, and, because many users were women, so did the number of babies born with health problems and addiction due to crack cocaine use during pregnancy. In the late 1980s, about 1 in 10 babies born in the US had already been exposed to crack or another illegal drug in the womb.

Crack also caused an explosion of crime in the US in the 1980s. Gangs fought over drug dealing territory, killing innocent victims who were caught in the crossfire, and crack cocaine addicts turned to criminal activity to support their habit. This also led to an increase of jail sentences associated with crack cocaine. Crack cocaine users were fuelling the demand for crack cocaine, encouraging the violence and other criminal activities that went along with producing and distributing crack.

Crack cocaine was an issue in the Iran-Contra scandal, where the US was selling arms to people in Iran, and using the money to fund Nicaraguan rebels, called Contras. Later evidence suggested that at least some of the Contras were also cocaine growers or producers. People were outraged that the government had been funding cocaine producers.

The US government, unable to stop the use and distribution of crack in the United States, decided to try to cut off the source of crack cocaine, going after Latin American drug cartels and coca growers. This seemed to be effective in reducing the supply of crack cocaine.

Today crack cocaine is still a problem drug, but its popularity has declined significantly, partly due to a decrease in supply and partly due to more education among young people on the dangers of crack cocaine. Today, homegrown drugs like prescription painkillers are much more commonly used, perhaps because of their perceived safety and easy availability.


US Department of Justice, "CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy Appendix C: History of Cocaine" [online]

US Drug Enforcement Agency, "DEA History Book: 1985-1990" [online]

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