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Trey McGee

SOC 2460
4/10/14

Women and Crack: The Health Effects


In 1992, more than 400,000 women above the age of 11 were estimated to have used
some form of cocaine within the last 30 days (Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1994).
Despite this shocking statistic, women who use crack cocaine, or any drug, have been detested
for doing so and have often been ignored for treatment and social services. Crack is a highly
addictive and euphoric drug that is very cheap causing it to be popular is lower class
neighborhoods. Women who experiment with crack are more likely to become addicted than
males because of the physical and psychological effects that may be more appealing to women.
Due to the lack of treatment for women, many aspects of crack, including its use and
distribution, can have many negative health effects. In fact, crack cocaine and HIV/Aids are
sometimes seen as dual epidemics.
The structure of crack houses plays a major role in how crack affects women. The stigma
that women should not be doing drugs, for reasons of child bearing and other factors, while it is
more accepted for men to take part in drugs embodies the fact that men control access to drugs
for women. In the realm of crack in lower class areas this idea of sex roles is particularly
stronger than other drugs. Not all crack houses are structured the same, there are several
different types. These include: Castles, Resorts, Brothels, Organized. In Resorts, crack is sold
and traded and sex is also traded. In Brothels, crack is also sold and the women may be paid in

drugs in exchange for sexual favors. In these types of crack houses the men users, who control
the access to crack, use their power to take advantage of those women, who depend on those
men, to feed their need. There is a subculture seen when it comes to this. The crack gives an
intense high and is often simultaneously used to heighten sexual experiences and sex is the
method in which women pay for crack. This causes women to be exploited greatly around the
act of sex and some women become house girls and they are expected to give sexual favors to
buyers of crack in exchange for more crack, food, alcohol, and a place to sleep (Metsch, McCoy,
Weatherby 76). Through these exchanges there is a greater risk for disease.
Not only does the structure of crack houses affect the risk for disease but the addiction
itself plays a huge role in the negative health affects for women. As stated above, crack is highly
addictive as well as highly euphoric and cheap. With these attributes, many users use the drug in
a habitual manner. Mainly in inner city areas, once users run out of funds from a job or are
unemployed, they turn to other methods to obtain funds to feed their addiction. For men, it is
easier to turn to crime like robbery but for women the most common method is prostitution.
With any addiction, feeding it is considered some form of survival and with crack, sex-for-drugs
exchanges as a mean of survival was more common among crack addicted women than heroin
using women (Metsch, McCoy, Weatherby 76). Obviously prostitution promotes risky sexual
behavior and with the hypersexual feeling crack causes the possibility for disease is very
intense. There has been studies that show that high-risk sexual behavior among crack users has
been associated with the frequency of STDs. One study shows that women who were associated
with crack and high-risk sexual behavior may be at a greater risk than men to be exposed to
STDs (Edlin at al., 1994). In other findings the risk is around the same. Not only does crack
have its hand in creating risk to STDS but it has also increased the occurrence of some forms of

STDs. One study found that sex-for-drugs rather than money-for drugs exchanges seemed to be
more popular amongst those who have been exposed to syphilis (Metsch, McCoy, Weatherby
77). As a result of the habitual sex with different partners, who may be other drug users or who
already have a STD, crack can increase womens risk to sexually transmitted diseases.
Lastly, which is the main contributor to why women have been detested, is the affect
crack has on the fetus of a pregnant women. One reason why women were so ostracized in the
beginning was because crack had been first discovered and an epidemic of crack babies had
been greatly overestimated. However, even though this epidemic was overestimated crack still
has been found to have its fair share of negative effects on children of those pregnant women.
When they use crack cocaine it passes into the placenta and into the babys bloodstream. Babies
who are exposed to cocaine later in pregnancy may be born dependent and suffer from
withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasms, and feeding difficulties.
According to the Organization of Teratology Information Services (OTIS), the exposure to crack
cocaine early in pregnancy can lead to a miscarriage. Also, since crack cocaine passes into the
placenta use can cause placental abruption, which can cause bleeding, preterm birth, and fetal
death. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecology (ACOG), women
who use cocaine during their pregnancy have a 25 % increased chance of premature labor (Using
Illegal Drugs during Pregnancy). The problems dont stop in utero. Crack cocaine use can also
have its impact on the development of a child later on in life, including learning disabilities,
decreased motor coordination, and impairment to memory (Metsch, McCoy, Weatherby 81).
The culture of crack cocaine has a huge impact on those who use it, especially women.
The structure of drug houses, the high risk sexual behavior, and the impact of the drug alone can
cause a number of problems. These problems are prevalent in cultures of other drugs but crack is

a drug that intensifies all of these issues. Sadly these issues have affects in other areas of life for
women like being ostracized, exploited, and denied of social services and treatment most
importantly. To get rid of this correlation between crack cocaine and STDs I feel like its time to
give these women treatment so these negative health effects on them and those around them no
longer have to be endured.

Works Cited
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (1994). Practical approaches to the treatment of women
who abuse alcohol and other drugs. DHHS Pub. No. (SMA) 94-3006. Rockville,
MD:

Department of Health and Human Services.

"Using Illegal Drugs during Pregnancy." American Pregnancy Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 11
Apr. 2014.
Edlin, B., Irwin, K. L. Faruque, S., McCoy, C. B., Word, C., Serrano, Y., Inciardi, J. A.,
Bowser, B. P., Schilling, R. F., Holmberg, S. D., & the Multicenter Crack Cocaine
and HIV Infection Study Team. (1994). Intersecting epidemics-crack cocaine use
and HIV among inner-city young adults. New England Journal of Medicine, 331, 14221427