WHAT IS CRACK?
Crack is derived from powdered cocaine using a simple conversion process. A mixture of cocaine, water and ammonia, or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is boiled until a solid is formed. The solid is removed from the liquid, then dried and broken into rocks. Most users smoke it in a glass or metal pipe, which delivers huge quantities of the drug into the lungs. The intense euphoric high is instantaneous and begins to fuel the potential for addiction before the user knows it. The term crack comes from the crackling sound made when it is heated.
Regardless of your age, your intellect, your social status or your environment, those who choose this drug must realize that it can lure a person into a chasm of despair that can completely devastate every aspect of ones life. It can destroy your health, your livelihood, isolate you from family and friends, and dissolve every ounce of dignity within you. According to the National Household Survey on drug abuse, more than 7.9 million U.S. residents ages 12 and up have smoked crack cocaine at least once in their lifetime; a frightening statistic. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults use crack, and this has become a particular problem among high school students.
UP NORTH PROBLEM
During a recent conversation with a detective from the Traverse City Narcotics Team (TNT), I was informed that there has been a consistent and growing amount of crack cocaine seized in this community, and this indicates that we are not immune from this problem in Northern Michigan. It may be on a smaller scale, but just the same, it is here.
In late June this year I received a call from a friend who has been battling an addiction to crack cocaine for more than 25 years. The minute I heard his voice, I realized he was in the midst of another binge. Having had no sleep, food or water for four days, he began to describe the destructive effects of the drug as he stood outside a crack house in East Grand Rapids. Due to the extremely high levels of crack in his system, he was struggling to make sense, and could not quite find a way to get out of the situation he was in, which included owing money to a drug dealer, having his car held hostage for the drug debt and being in grave physical danger.
As the story goes, Richard (name changed to protect his identity) had rented a car for the sole purpose of driving downstate to pursue his desire for crack, and slipped right back into the seedy underbelly of substance abuse. With $300 in cash, he arrived in Grand Rapids and made his way to a known crack house. In the presence of 10 or 12 other crack addicts, rocks began to flow, and the burning smell of cocaine saturated the smoke-filled room. Throughout the evening, the amped-up users became hostile as everyone clamored for more crack. Hyper-stimulation, aggressive behavior and paranoia can quickly set in as the intense desire increases. The initial extreme high only lasts three to five minutes, and then the brains reward system begs for further stimulation - another hit - chasing that initial high - but never ever reaches it.
Around 7:00 a.m, a crack dealer enters the house to offer more rocks to the entire group, but Richard was already out of money. Desperate for more crack, he decided to rent his car to the dealer for two or three more $20 rocks. He then left with the guy and was driven to what was described as the #1 crack house in Grand Rapids. Richard handed over the keys to the car as a rental for the crack, made the exchange, and before he knew it, a crazed addict stole one of his three rocks. With burned and blistered fingers from hitting the pipe all night, he ignored the confrontation, and smoked up what he had left in a matter of minutes.
THE DANGER INCREASES
Drifting in and out of a near psychotic state, Richard eventually realizes that he now has no car, and is trapped in a very dangerous situation with a half dozen insane people. He calls the crack dealer on his cell phone, demanding that he return his car. Two or three hours later the guy shows up with another man and was not going to give Richard the car back unless he handed over some cash. Since he didnt have any on him, he told them he would have to find a nearby bank ATM, and ended up hopping in the back seat of the vehicle with the dealers. Driving around with them and not sure what his next move would be, Richard devised a plan. He directed them to head towards a bank in a busy section of the city. Once they pulled up to a red light in heavy traffic, he jumped into the front seat and yanked the keys out of the ignition. With keys in hand he opened the door and screamed for help, hoping someone at the intersection would call the police. The two dealers got out of the car and were not about to run off until they attempted to beat the hell out of him. Slightly dazed, Richard was able to regain control of the vehicle as the dealers made off on foot. He drove off in his car, pulled into a nearby parking lot to gain his composure, and noticed that he was low on gas. Sifting for change on the floor of the vehicle, he found a small bag of marijuana that the dealers left behind.
At this point Richard decides to sell the marijuana to cover the cost of traveling home. Well, not quite. He actually approached a man at random who might be willing to buy the drugs, and let him get into his car. Sure, it looks like a deal, but the potential buyer needs to be driven to a friends house to get the cash. Needless to say, he was duped, and when he tried to force the man out of his car, the guy swiped his bag of marijuana, grabbed his cell phone and smashed it on the dashboard in an outrage.
BEGGING FOR MORE
No more phone and no easy sale today, so why not take a shot at panhandling? Richard is a smooth talker and highly trained in the art of manipulation, and should have no problem pulling in some spare change. Sure enough, 20 minutes later he had pan-handled enough money to get some fuel and head north. Unfortunately, he took a detour to yet another crack-house and spent two more days smoking crack and panhandling church people, or anyone else who would listen to his sick story. To this day, I am not sure how he made his way back to Northern Michigan alive.
IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU
Richard is an unlikely candidate for such a destructive addiction, and he is proof that it can happen to anyone. As is common with addicts, he never thought it would happen to him. This is a highly educated man with a very articulate disposition and the skills and opportunities that are rare in life. Whatever underlying issues are at hand with Richard, the fact remains that one fateful pull from that crack pipe is all it takes to send him down the road to despair and destruction. You can easily place blame on an addict for their unenviable habits and addictions, and turn away, figuring its their problem. To best describe it from Richards point of view: telling a crack addict that they cant have any more crack is like telling someone they cant have any more food.
For those who have a family member or friend fighting an addiction, awareness and understanding will make a difference, though it demands strength and willingness to accept the ever present possibility of relapse and apparent failure. Professional help will only work for those who will accept it on a consistent basis, but the fact remains that the demonic nature of a serious drug addiction can and will take a person to the brink, and all too often take them to an early grave.
If you are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction and need help, please call:
Third Level Crisis Center in Traverse City at 800-442-7315; Catholic Human Services (TC)
at 231-947-8110; Harbor Hall in Petoskey at
888-880-5511/231-347-5511; or LTBB Substance Abuse Program (Petoskey) at 231-242-1642. Narcotics Anonymous also has locations in TC (231-223-3399) and Petoskey (231-348-1866), as does Alcoholics Anonymous (TC: 231-946-8823, Petoskey: 231-348-5505.)