General Question

squirbel's avatar

Why was the crack epidemic of the 80s treated much more negatively than the meth epidemic of the last 15 years?

Asked by squirbel (4292points) June 20th, 2011

The media demonized black and brown urban people during the 80s crack epidemic (ignoring cocaine users), yet are not demonizing meth users.

You almost never see the media covering stories on meth crimes, not in the way it was demonized in the 80s.


Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

22 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

I think you know the answer to this. Black people don’t really do meth.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Because mandatory minimums and the War on Drugs are ways to legalize and institutionalize racism, as well as other bigotry.

Coloma's avatar

I think crack became the new drug in the 80’s that was even more dangerous than coke, then, meth came onto the scene and was seen as just as bad, if not worse.
I never paid attention, by the time the 80’s rolled around I was married and my party days were mostly behind me. I had a little run of doing coke in the mid-to late 70’s, but nothing that ever became a lasting problem. I experimented, like a lot of peeps back then, with everything, it came, it went, I was lucky I guess.

El_Cadejo's avatar

As sad as it is to say, I think JP and mynewtboobs have it….

obvek's avatar

It was part of an effort to among a few things launch the privatized prison industry. The CIA provided the product, and politicians had a field day with their “tough on crime” and “3 strikes” pissing contests. Look up the history of prison construction in California. It skyrocketed in the 80s and 90s when it had been dormant for the previous 100 years.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

There are huge anti-Meth campaigns being broadcast in the mostly white the Northwest. Users are very much demonized. Meth is the very reason we can no longer find any product containing Dextromethorphan cold medicine on the shelf. You now have to ask the Pharmacist, can buy only one and have to deal with dirty looks. In areas where Meth is a big problem people take it very seriously and nobody cuts users a break.

Also, I think a lot has changed in how we approach drug epidemics and social issues in the last 25–30 years. It’s more a matter of we’ve lived and learned than racism (which, I don’t deny that element was there). And now it’s not a big deal because meth is a mostly white epidemic. The crack era began a long time ago considering how much social consciousness has changed.

laureth's avatar

Perhaps we’re just inured, as a society, to the “Drugs are bad, mmmkay” message?

Do you ever notice how parents are vigilant and strict when it comes to their first child, less so on the second, and by the time the third or fourth kid comes along, that kid can play with lit matches naked in traffic and the parents are like, “whatever”? I think the news cycle is like that too. The first war, terrorist attack, political sex scandal, new dangerous drug, or wardrobe malfunction is “OMG!!1! Shock and awe!” and the rest, not so much.

crisw's avatar

Wow, your media must be different. WA and OR are constantly running meth horror stories, and I see many of them in CA as well.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

@crisw in Idaho as well. OR invented the “faces of meth” program, I believe.

derekfnord's avatar

From what I understand (having no experience with either), meth is also cheaper than crack. If that’s true, it probably leads to less “crime-to-support-my-habit” type stuff, which might also contribute to less priority being given to it.

syzygy2600's avatar

If you don’t know that crack is far more dangerous than coke and makes people far more dangerous than coke, you’ve clearly never been exposed to either.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@syzygy2600 It actually doesn’t. Michelle Alexander, in her recent book The New Jim Crow, shoes convincingly that they’re comparable in terms of effect and damage, and as @MyNewtBoobs said are a way to enforce institutional racism without having blatantly racist laws. Crack, until recently (I believe) was punishable at ten times the rate as powdered coke, the only real difference being the demographic of who uses them.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I just want to add that it’s not usually dextromethorphan (DXM) used to illegally produce meth, but ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. DXM is in loads of cough medicines that are freely available on the shelf.

sarahtalkpretty's avatar

@MissAnthrope, you’re correct and I confused the two. I’d make several corrections to my post if I could, but the gist of it was what I meant to say. DXM isn’t used to make meth – I was thinking of pseudoephedrine. However, DXM is also being controlled in Idaho and is not on the shelf the last time I checked it was kept in a glass case .

You know, I’ve heard it said that crack was just an excuse to punish black women by taking their kids away, but in my state most of the foster kids are meth babies born to white or Mexican mothers. I don’t see that black women were singled out to have their kids removed. Perspective is a matter of location, I guess.

syzygy2600's avatar

Speaking as someone who has done coke many times in the past, and has been exposed to many people who use crack, there is a very big difference in how people behave on each substance.

WasCy's avatar

Meth, partly because of its distinctive aroma (and the danger of meth labs run by meth addicts) is primarily a rural drug. That is, it’s mostly produced in rural and semi-rural areas, and a lot of its consumption and distribution takes place there, too.

It’s the production of meth that’s the biggest danger to the public (buildings blowing up and burning down, dangers to firefighters, etc.) The users tend to kill themselves because of their habit.

obvek's avatar

Interesting that meth and coke had their own tv shows (Breaking Bad & Miami Vice) while crack just had New Jack City.

You’re welcome to provide correction and addenda.

lillycoyote's avatar

@crisw I don’t think it’s that the media is so much different. We don’t see any of those kinds of ads where I live, southeast of Philly, either. Are the ads about meth use mostly or about meth labs? I’m thinking that in the Northeast, and along the easter corridor things are pretty urbanized and we’re all packed in here pretty close together and you’re not going to be able to set up a meth lab in the city or the burbs they way you might be able to set one up in the wide open, or wider open, spaces of the Northwest and California. The odors, the habits of meth makers are very difficult to conceal. There a lot less middle of nowhere, out of the way places here than on in the West and Mid-West. That may be part of why media attention to the issue varies across the country.

crisw's avatar


That could be. You can’t wave an issue of The Columbian or The Oregonian around without an article on meth falling out. I am thinking about stories on meth use rather than ads.

lillycoyote's avatar

@crisw I was in Portland last week and I think I saw a couple of The Face of Meth type things that @sarahtalkpretty mentioned out there somewhere. I really meant to pick up the sunday Oregonian when I was there but forgot.

zenvelo's avatar

From where I am in California, the “scourge” of meth isn’t about what it does to the addict as much as the fear of meth labs in the neighborhood. The stories are all about the haz-mat teams cleaning up, or “how close we came to the neighborhood being blown up.”

I’m of the same opinion as @johnpowell and @MyNewtBoobs that it was institutional racism.

Aethelwine's avatar

Come to central and western Illinois. Meth is a major problem here and it gets much media attention. (and it’s not positive)

We just moved from one major meth town to another. My son (a junior in high school at the time) was told by one of his teachers, “welcome to Meth town”.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther