There has been a huge increase on people seeking help for crack addiction in England, specially in under 20s, which is alarming.
Crack’s comeback can be due to multiple factors but one of them is that the drug is getting purer and cheaper, making it more accessible.
"The main reason that crack use has increased is because of the availability of cocaine from which crack is made."said Harry Shapiro, director of the online drug information service Drugwise."There is also a wider dealing network with London as one of the main centres of it."
The latest estimate says there are over 180 thousand users in England, which means an increase compared to past years. There has also been a rise of 16 percent in police seizures of crack.
Crack cocaine has an aggressive liability and makes up, together with heroin, the most social costs associated with drug misuse.
According to drugwise 2016 report, crack and cocaine are the second most used drug in England and Wales.
There is a strong and aggressive marketing by dealers which is related to the increase of the consumption of crack cocaine and opioids. "Heroin dealers will give crack as well when selling heroin. The drug treatment agency are saying that they are seeing more people coming forward just with a crack use problem." said Harry Shapiro.
It has become common that due to the rise of availability and therefore competition, dealers are offering rocks of crack cocaine to people who bring in new customers and offering deals when buying larger amounts of the drug.
Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP UK), an NGO, had a lot to say about how the current measures are failing to address the issue and neglecting society.
John Cross, LEAP UK's communication officer, said that all drugs should be regulated within a legal distribution and supply system. Some of their members have been actively pursuing the illicit drug market for years and have observed how the only way to tackle drug crime and its impact on society is by dealing with the roots of the problem. "Our position at Leap UK is that the current way of treating drugs just as barring them as illegal instead of having a regulated system that people can access and that there are political preparations for and everything else just isn't working.", John said. "All that is doing is just feeding drug crime and making organised crime groups richer."
As it can be seen in the PHI report from last year, there are an estimated 180 000 crack cocaine user. The biggest increase is seen in age ranges of 15 to 24 and 35 to 64.
John said that the current legislation and mentality go back to war on drugs of Nixon and Reagan. With this "just say no" policy moral panic was built up through the media and been used to stigmatise the poorer population. "That is one reason why the laws continue to exist today and the other reason, created from that forum, is that politicians are scared of losing votes." said John.
John and LEAP UK think that having laws and measures that demonise drug consuming populations do little to help addicts. Instead they propose distribution systems fit for purpose and safe spaces for patients to consume drugs. These would also take into account their medical and psychological history.
"What we, together with brave politicians who are already stepping up, are proposing is not legalisation and is not a free for all for drugs. It is legal regulation." said John, "We want to know where all the drugs people consume come from. We want to know what's in them."
With LEAP UK's proposition of a regulated system, the potency of drugs would be better controlled making it safer for users.
Besides tackling the supply and consumption of drugs, more efforts should be made to help addicts wishing to rehabilitate.
Rehabilitation for crack users is ineffective and largely under staffed. "Unlike with heroin addiction, there's no substitute drug for crack. The only thing that you can provide for people is counselling, some people respond to that but others will not come forward." said Drugwise's Harry Shapiro. Another problem that he has noticed is that treatment agencies don't offer immediate support which is what most people addicted to crack often seek.
James Golding is one of the men of the duo of artists The Connor Brothers. He struggled with crack and heroin addiction and said the available treatment resources failed terribly to help him. "With cuts in services the outlook for people suffering with crack addiction is bleak," he said. "The available resources are evidently ineffective and it is unrealistic to think that our government will do what is required to adequately fund either therapeutic or medically assisted rehabilitation."
James blames the growing use of crack to the rise of mental health issues and homelessness, especially in London. "A less effective police force is also a contributing factor. At the other end of the spectrum there is reduced stigma around cocaine use in comparatively ‘normal’ society", he said.
The stigma around mental health pushed James to seek drugs as a way to express certain thoughts and feelings that he couldn't otherwise. "More resources are desperately needed to create a global environment where it is safe and acceptable to talk openly about our emotions without fear of shame and ridicule. By doing this we will stop drug addiction before it begins."