Prevalence of Use, Abuse, Addiction to Crack Cocaine in African-American Children Living in Low Income Housing



The persistent poverty in African-American households became the primary cause of the crack cocaine prevalence, especially in inner cities. During the 1980s-1990s the addiction to crack cocaine involved the majority of the black population of problem neighborhood.

The crack obsession controls the life of the drug addicted and influences on the life of the whole family. “Children living with their substance-abusing parents constitute a group at particularly high risk of becoming substance abusers themselves” (Lam et al., 2007, p. 877). The underprivileged classes struggling against joblessness and negative economic consequences were addicted and involved in drug use and distribution.

Target Audience

The target audience of this informational seminar is African-American children thirteen-seventeen years old. Approximately 43 percent of African-American children from twelve years old and older were engaged in drug use, and 21 percent of them used crack (Fellner, 2009, p. 266). Crack cocaine abuse is prevalent among the low-income housing.

Essentially, African-American children were more likely to grow up in the one-parent family where the only caregiver was the mother. Unemployment, poverty, and fast-changing environment are often the factors that influence to the decision using drugs. Children living in inner cities became prone to cocaine crack abuse as the one of the most widespread illicit drug.

The severe living conditions and the example of substance-abusing parent change the lifestyle of many thirteen-seventeen years old adolescents. Moreover, African-American children who contact with the drug-abusing peers from the public school are at the most risk.

The environment of the adolescents from the low-income housings often contributes to the early drug addiction, possession, and distribution. Underprivileged black children struggling conflicts in their casual life may develop the cocaine crack addiction.

Drug Classification

The United States Food and Drug Administration distributed all drugs in five categories in accordance with its harm or dependence. The first category includes drugs with the highest potential for addiction and abuse while the fifth group includes the medically accepted drugs.

In the first schedule, there are drugs with high potentials for addiction and abuse (heroin, LSD etc.). These drugs are excluded from medical practice use and forbidden by the legislation. Cocaine and derivatives are in the second schedule, and “have high potentials for abuse and dependence” (Milhorn, 2003, p. 16).

The third category drugs are less harmful and addictive, and they are currently used in the medical practice. Various anabolic steroids and dietary pills drugs contain drugs from this class.

Drugs in the fourth class have the low potential for addiction and are included in the different medication for children. The fifth schedule includes drugs that have very little addiction potential and are highly used in medical practice. Usually, cough mixtures contain drugs from this class.

Crack can be obtained by dissolving cocaine in the water and adding baking soda. The cocaine refers to the second schedule of the drug classification and appears to be a very addictive drug. While smoking the cocaine crack, drug addicted experience a sharp but short high.

The prevalence of crack in African-American inner cities can be attributed to the simplicity of its use through the special smoking pipe and the need of relatively small dose in comparison with the pure substance. The prevalence of crack among the black population and the high addiction makes this drug available for adolescents as well. Besides, the crack abusing parents often disregard their children and consciously or unconsciously provoke their abuse or addiction.

Terms Defined

Addiction is the feeling of the dependence on the drug. Drug addiction can be physical or psychological. Physical drug addiction appears when a body becomes highly dependent and cannot normally function.

The pain of withdrawal turns into the unbearable physical condition, and the person takes another dose for temporal relieve. The psychological dependence is the drug-dependent state of mind revealed in various symptoms.

While addiction refers to the psychological condition, dependence reveals the physical aspect of the dose concentration in the body necessary to escape the withdrawal syndrome.

Crack cocaine is the smoking kind of cocaine. The substance is highly addictive and harmful.

High is the state of mind that a person is experiencing when abusing the drugs. The high from crack is similar to the cocaine high but is also followed by the intense flash.

Street drug is the type of substance that is distributed among the local addicted people. African-American children are often getting involved in the process of distribution and use.

Substance abuse is the constant use of the drug that leads to the failure of learning, working or communicating.

Tolerance is the condition that appears when the addicted person needs a higher dose of the drug to have the same effect.

Underprivileged children are adolescents living in potentially dangerous and poor conditions. Often, parents of these children are drug abused and encourage them to steal or to work as drug dealers or prostitutes. African-American children growing up in such families start using crack cocaine in the early age.

Withdrawal develops when the dependent person stops taking drugs. It appears in various symptoms. Physical symptoms include tremor, vomiting, increased pressure and pulse. Psychological symptoms include excessive anxiety and the feeling of depression and alienation.

Sign and Symptoms of Use, Abuse, Dependence

Crack cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs that may provoke various problems in the school or in family. However, use of the substance does not mean the abuse, and it may not lead to the addiction.

The signs of drug use by adolescent may be blurred and vague. Furthermore, African-American children from the low-income housings are usually neglected, and their parents can be drug abused too. Thus, their signs and symptoms can stay unnoticed.

The sharp deterioration of school performance and mood swings may indicate that the child is using crack cocaine. Another obvious sign of substance use is the decreased interaction with friends or complete refuse from the previous friendship. Eating disorder can indicate to the crack use as cocaine suppresses appetite.

The symptoms of drug abuse have many in common with signs of use. However, there are several specific features that may reveal the crack abuse. African-American children from the poor families may be involved in illegal activities to get money for the crack. If parents notice missing the money it should be considered as the attempt to buy drugs.

Pipes hidden in the stuff is the main sign of crack abuse. Also, there are physical appearances of the drug abuse such as tremors and impaired coordination when a child is experiencing withdrawals. For example, crack cocaine withdrawal may appear in “fatigue, vivid unpleasant dreams, insomnia or hypersomnia, increased appetite, and psychomotor retardation or agitation” (as cited in Essau, 2002, p. 29).

The symptoms of crack cocaine addictions may include but not be limited to: built tolerance, the withdrawals are hard, and the crack abuse becomes the only reliever. Finally, the adolescent develops a strong drug addiction and if there is no external control, it may cause serious consequences, including imprisoning or disability.

Ethnic and Cultural Factors

African-American children from low-income housings are more likely to use crack cocaine than adolescents from other ethnic groups. However, the average age of drug abuse varies. Inner factor within the family influence of the child’s decision whether or not start using drugs. Also, the cultural environment is critical.

According to Lam et al. (2007), “53% of children who were exposed to parental substance use during adolescence became substance users themselves, compared with 15% of those who were not exposed during adolescence” (p. 879). The researches show that African-American seventh-graders from public schools are more likely to use crack cocaine than the same age children from other ethnic groups (Fellner, 2009).

The reasons for early drug abuse include cultural and social environment, the influence of crack addicted parent and the personal expectation of the high experience. The location of the majority of low-income households in inner cities predisposes adolescents to crack addiction.

The cultural traditions of these districts differ from the cultures of others. Apparently, the prevalence of a particular drug varies depending on the ethnical and cultural factors. Thus, African-American population prefers smoking crack cocaine as it is an available and relatively cheap drug.

However, the main reason for the prevalence of the crack cocaine among children from the low-income housings is the subculture of problem neighborhood.

The crack cocaine appeared in the poor black communities deprived of the necessary comforts and possibilities. “Among African Americans identified as individuals who use crack-cocaine, more than 70 percent reported concerns regarding food, clothing, and transportation, and approximately 50 percent reported problems associated with shelter, medical issues, and employment” (Substance Abuse Treatment, 2009, p. 110).

It became a source of relive for African-Americans and a source of their income. The small cost in comparison with its powdered substance and its widespread availability made crack cocaine popular in inner cities. Drug abuse is usually developed due to particular fast changes in the ethnical communities predisposed to a drug addiction.

Culture and social environment influencing on children and form certain expectations of acceptable consequences and problems caused by drug abuse. Considering the negative impact of the ethnical and cultural environment in the inner cities, adolescents of thirteen years old and older become addicted to the smoking crack cocaine without realizing the harmful implications.

The cultural factors, such as parent’s addiction, child neglect, mental disorders caused by the traumatic event in the childhood, may stimulate use, abuse and addiction to crack in African-American children.

Meanwhile, ethnical factors include the prevalence and low price of crack in the inner cities populated with the particular ethnical group. Children under thirteen years old living with drug abused parent are more likely to use, abuse and develop dependence of crack than adolescents from outside the community or ones living with non-abusing parents.

Societal Attitudes and Stigma

Societal perspective can be a powerful mean of influence on drug addicted. Despite the tendency of unbiased attitude formation, the social response to drug addiction is still highly censured and negative. As Thomas, (2004) has claimed “societal attitudes toward crack-abusing women have not changed—these women continue to be stigmatized, and most social policy interventions remain punitive in nature” (p. 18).

However, the drug abuse is often considered as a personal choice and reveals the social disfavor towards the drug dependent. The age of an addicted person plays the significant role in the societal attitude. African-American children using crack are considered by the public as victims of living conditions rather than individually responsible for the addiction.

Numerous problems that adolescents go through in the low-income housings cause a crack abuse. Poverty and deprivation in the problem neighborhood along with drug abused environment becomes an illustrative example of an easy life for the African-American children. The cheap and available high turns into the fast relieve for teenagers. Thus, crack cocaine addicted person gets the stigma.

The relation of crack cocaine to the second schedule makes this drug potentially harmful and dangerous for the addicted and the society. The public prejudice attitude towards the aggressive behavior of the drug dependent is justifiable. Indeed, while experiencing the crack high and during the withdrawal, an addicted person becomes highly aggressive and dangerous.

Substance Abuse Treatment report (2009) discloses that the criminal level inside the inner cities, especially in ones involved in crack use, possession and distribution, is significantly higher than in other districts. Often, the public attitude towards the drug dependence is ambivalent and relies upon the circumstances of the child’s addiction including domestic reasons, external influence and responsibilities.

The social concern about the drug and crime relation is understandable. When crack addiction developed and the tolerance built, there is a high risk of crime commitment. It can be potentially dangerous not only to the inner city but also to the neighborhood districts.

The stigma put on African-American community as the primary threat to the society is contradicted; however the society faces with the problem of addiction among young people. The social attitude towards the parents with crack addiction is univocal. Foster families’ appearance over the past decades shows the great concern of society towards the African-American adolescents living with dependent parents.

Thus, the public attitude performs several primary functions. Any social involvement should be free of judgment, persuasion or punishment in respect to the vulnerability of children’s mentality, especially during the transitional age. Otherwise, it will lead to the opposite result. The crack addicted adolescent should be removed from the potentially harmful environment as soon as possible.

Social attitude toward the addicted African-American child from the low-income housing should be based on patterns of empathy and support, instead of threatening. Finally, crack abused adolescents from the low-income families along with others, must be provided with adequate treatment. The societal performance of these functions will decrease the African-American children’s drug abuse and develop the firm feeling of their social involvement.

The prevalence of use, abuse, and addiction to crack cocaine in African-American children is caused by several reasons including cultural and ethnical factors. The availability and low price made the drug popular not only among the adults but also among children.

The impact of the environment of the inner cities, the parent’s drug abuse and the personal inability to resist develops children’s drug addiction in the early age. Societal attitude, still biased, towards dependent adolescents should refrain from assessments and take certain responsibilities to resist the spread of addiction.


Essau, C. (2002). Substance abuse and dependence in adolescence: Epidemiology, risk factors and treatment. New York, NY: Routledge.

Fellner, J. (2009). Race, drugs, and law enforcement in the United States. Stanford Law & Policy Review 20(2), 257-291.

Lam, W., Cance, J., Eke, A., Fishbein, D., Hawkins, S., & Williams, J. (2007). Children of African-American mothers who use crack cocaine: Parenting influences on youth substance use. Journal of Pediatric Psychology,32(8), 877-887.

Milhorn, H. (2003). Drug and alcohol abuse: The authoritative guide for parents, teachers, and counselors. New York: Da Capo Press.

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Thomas, J. (2004). Educating drug-exposed children: The aftermath of the crack-baby crisis. New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

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