Crack Epidemic? 

Crack is a form of the drug cocaine. It is one of the most highly additive and destructive drugs in the world. Small doses of it are smoked into the lungs and delivered quickly to the brain. This creates a short high, followed by tiredness, depression, panic, anxiety, and brain damage. During the early 1980s, the drug first came into use in South Central, LA. It spread out through the entire country. It led to an addiction epidemic (disease affecting many people) which disproportionately hurt Black and Brown communities and led to huge increases in crime.

Who did ship it in?
How did crack cocaine become so popular that it led to an epidemic, and who brought it to South Central? The story begins in the early 1900s in Nicaragua, a country in Central America. In this country, the US took complete military control because they wanted to control the farm land. The Nicaraguans revolted against this, and were led by Augusto Cesar Sandino. He led the country briefly, but was overthrown in a coup d’etat by Anastasio Somoza. Somoza ruled the country through the military and the people did not have very many rights. He gained control in the 1930s. Nearly 40 years later, in 1979, the people revolted against Somoza. The main group that led the revolt were called the Sandinistas. They were named after Sandino. They were also communist, and this worried the US because they did not want to lose money that they put in to building up Nicaragua. So the US started to give money to some Nicaraguans to fights the communist Sandinistas, starting a civil war in Nicaragua. This led to many Nicaraguans coming to the US. The only problem was after the Iran-Contra Scandal (more on this later), U.S. government funding for this war was cut off.

The solution was to partner with wealthy Nicaraguans who were known to be involved in drug distribution, and use the money to supply weapons to fight the communist Sandinistas. The U.S. was complicit with the drug trade to allow for the influx of money lost after the Iran-Contra Scandal. In 1981, the CIA actually helped ship cocaine from Nicaragua to El Salvador and then on to to Texas and Arkansas, and lastly to LA. Drug dealers on the CIA payroll also set up connections between known drug dealers in LA and Compton, and Nicaragua. The CIA allow for the sale of the drugs to the drug dealers, knowing that the money would be used to buy weapons for Nicaragua by their wealthy partners. The drug dealers first distributed the drugs among gangs, and then to individual smaller drug dealers. South Central already had existing drug markets that were virtually ignored by greater society. However, the crack cocaine had a particularly devastating impact. 

The Effect
The Crack Epidemic started in South Central, and spread throughout the US. It had a terrible effect. People became addicted. This led to families being broken up into pieces. Many people grew up without one or both parents because someone in their family was addicted. Later, this would lead to the end of the epidemic as fewer people started using cocaine because they saw the effects of it. Crime also increased dramatically during this time. Many low skilled workers lost their factory jobs in South Central because many factories closed during this time. They turned to drug dealing to support their family. The popular myth of a drug dealer is that they are young gang members. In fact, most gangs were not organized enough to control the drug trade. Most crack cocaine dealers were not distributing cocaine through a gang. Many were ordinary people trying to support their family. Many of these people fought over prices and territory though, and this led to a surge in the number of homicides. In addition, those that became addicted did whatever was necessary to supply their habit. This often resulted in robberies. This increase in crime is what led to many bars being put up on windows, and metal fences being built around apartments and houses. The impact was reverberated from LA to the entire nation. For example, in New York City, at the height of the epidemic, 70% of all people that were arrested tested positive for crack cocaine.

After the Epidemic
The emergence of crack cocaine led to strict laws against crack cocaine. These laws were stricter than laws against powder cocaine. The so-called “War on Drugs” by the US government and the police especially targeted young Black and Brown males. This led to the US having the highest incarceration rate in the world. The high amount of people in jail is a direct result of the Crack Epidemic, which was started by the CIA. Crack has destroyed families and, in many ways, destroyed communities, which still suffer the effects of crime, drug-use, and incarceration.

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