NYU Study: Different Uses of Crack & Powder Cocaine in High Schools

A recent study by researchers at New York University and the NYU Langone Medical Center found that the use of crack and powder cocaine varies among high school students. The study examined data from annual surveys of high school seniors in 130 public and private high schools. The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

According to the surveys examined by the study, more than six percent of high school seniors reported using powder cocaine, while less than half that amount reported using crack cocaine. The study found that certain demographic and socioeconomic variables were correlated with the different usage rates of crack or powder cocaine. For instance, according to the study, female students are less likely to use powder cocaine, while students who self-identified as “religious” are more likely to use crack cocaine. Additionally, users of powder cocaine are more likely to reside in metropolitan areas that include both urban and rural regions.

Joseph Palamar, one of the study’s co-authors, explained that the results of the study should be useful for determining the “different risk profiles associated with use.” Stemming the rise in cocaine abuse by high school students will require government agencies and regulatory bodies to consider the different at-risk factors that exist for users of crack and powder cocaine.

Danielle Ompad, one of the NYU study’s other co-authors, noted that although researchers typically collapse powder cocaine and crack cocaine into one all-encompassing category of “cocaine use,” there are “different contexts of use, reasons for use and rates of dependence, and adverse outcomes associated with use.”

One example of the different adverse outcomes associated with cocaine use is the significantly different legal consequences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. In 2010, Congress responded to complaints about racial inequity in drug sentencing by enacting the Fair Sentencing Act, which did away with the five-year mandatory-minimum prison sentence for possession of crack cocaine. However, despite the recent changes to the law, there are still extreme disparities in the respective penalties for possession of crack cocaine and possession of powder cocaine. Under federal law, a drug offender convicted of possessing 500 grams of powder cocaine is subject to five years in prison, while it takes just 28 grams of crack cocaine for an offender to receive an identical sentence.

Severe Penalties for Cocaine Possession in New Jersey

In contrast to the federal government, only 13 states currently distinguish between crack cocaine and powder cocaine when imposing sentences. New Jersey law does not make a distinction between crack and powder cocaine; both drugs are classified as “controlled dangerous substances” and Schedule II narcotics. Nonetheless, the penalties for possession of cocaine in New Jersey are severe. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10, possession of any amount of cocaine can subject a person to as many as five years in NJ State Prison. If you’ve been arrested for possession of cocaine in New Jersey, contact the experienced criminal and drug crime defense lawyers at Shebell & Shebell, LLC or call us toll free at 866-957-5237.

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