Anatomy of a Drug Craze

Why Tough Laws Can't Claim Credit for Beating Back Crack

Drug treatment counselors have also noticed a shift in their clients. Crack users now going for help have been on the drug longer, according to Chris Policano of Phoenix House. The observation runs counter to the early image of crack use: that people were instantly addicted, their lives immediately spun into chaos. While many crack users do lose control of their lives, it's now clear that crack is no more instantly addicting than powder cocaine or even marijuana. Most people who try it don't even continue to use it. And one-third of those who do don't go on to use it every day.

Treatment providers also report a greater concentration of crack use. "Now you find one or two people per family on it," says Sydney Moshette, director of the Reality House out-patient drug treatment program in Harlem. Moshette disagrees with the emphasis of the government response to crack. "It's wrong--and expensive," says Moshette. "The way to reduce use is to increase the quality of life of people living in poverty. It's not through punishment." In the meantime, says Moshette, "crack is still out there where people are vulnerable. And it will be for a long while."

Back in the trailer, Marie struggles with the complex question of the drug's appeal. "It's about dreams," she says after taking a hit. "It's like you're buying a dream. It's good and it's bad. I can't explain."

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