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Crack, Powder Cocaine, and Heroin: Drug Purchase and Use Patterns in Six U.S. Cities

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1997
45 pages
Publication Series
Information was collected from 2,056 recently arrested powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin users in five cities in Illinois, New York, Oregon, Texas, and California and in the District of Columbia to determine where and how arrestees obtained and used drugs.
Researchers used a survey with approximately 100 questions to gather information on proximity of drug purchases to the buyer's home and neighborhood, buyer's relationship to seller, duration and frequency of drug purchases, size and price of drug transactions, how income was generated for drug purchases, presence of firearms during drug transactions, quantities of drugs typically used, form of drug and mode of administration, frequency of drug use and cessation, and polydrug use patterns. Analysis revealed significant differences within and across drug types. Further, for a given drug type, significant differences were observed across cities, racial and ethnic groups, and age groups. Crack users reported living in shelters or on the streets more frequently than other drug users at most sites. About 11.5 percent of crack users in Washington, DC, and 8.5 percent in New York City reported living in a shelter prior to arrest; 16 percent of crack users in San Diego, 13 percent in New York City, and 12 percent in San Antonio reported being on the streets prior to arrest. Many respondents said public assistance was their primary income source prior to arrest. White and Hispanic participants spread their drug use evenly across powder crack, heroin, and combination heroin markets, while black participants primarily used crack. Heroin and powder cocaine users were more likely to report using a main source than crack users. Crack users generally reported knowing more dealers from whom they could purchase than powder cocaine and heroin users. Most crack and heroin users typically made purchases outdoors in their own neighborhoods. Substantial majorities of participants in all drug use categories and at all sites reported making at least one purchase in the week prior to arrest. Participants were likely to test positive for drugs, indicating they used drugs in the 72 hours prior to arrest. At most sites, heroin users usually described themselves as daily users. Powder cocaine and crack users reported consuming drugs more times per day than heroin users. In general, findings showed powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and heroin markets differed in a variety of ways. The interview instrument is appended. 31 tables

Date Published: December 1, 1997