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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
UNITED STATES: Crack Addicts Settle into Long Addictions,
Tom Beyerlein
September 17, 2007
Dayton Daily News (Ohio) (09.06.07) - Monday, September 17,

A new study suggests that crack cocaine addicts, like abusers of alcohol or heroin, typically fall into addictive patterns that persist for years.

"It appears that crack cocaine pretty much unfolds along the same path [as alcoholism]," said lead author Russel Falck of Wright State University's Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton. "Once people get involved, they tend to stay involved for a very long time." The researchers interviewed 430 Dayton-area crack addicts periodically during an eight-year period. Among the study's findings: *Participants who joined the study had already smoked crack for an average of 7.6 years. Eight years later, two-thirds were still smoking crack.

*Two-thirds of participants reported health problems. Persons addicted to crack frequently engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, exposing them to HIV and other STDs and blood-borne viruses.

*Crack addicts are disproportionately alcoholics. The combination of crack and alcohol creates a chemical that can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system.

*Abstaining from crack was more difficult for black users than white users, and for male users than female users. The university is preparing a study to examine why crack addiction would disproportionately affect minorities.

An editorial response in the same journal said, "It is time to recalibrate our aim and focus drastically" in treating persons addicted to crack. "Over the period of a quarter-century, we have made little if any progress concerning effective interventions.

The study, "Crack Cocaine Trajectories Among Users in a Midwestern American City," and the editorial, "Crack Use in North American Cities: the Neglected 'Epidemic'" were published in Addiction (2007;102(9):1421-1431 and 1340-1341, respectively).