Druglink article 2014 – 1989: Crack myths and realities in the UK by Robert Stutman

Crack cocaine first made its appearance in the UK around [date]. The stories coming out of the States were of whole communities being devastated by this new form of cocaine. And like smokable heroin in the UK, the effects of crack cocaine on those areas experiencing high levels of poverty and deprivation in a time of economic recession and massive cuts back in public expenditure, were indeed extremely damaging.

But in among the realities of the damage caused, were the tabloid excesses as expressed in headlines like ‘one hit and you are hooked’ – and sensational statements from politicians like then-Home Secretary Douglas Hurd who told the Daily Mail that crack was the worst plague to hit Britain since the Black Death – at a time when there were still relatively few users of the drug here.

The government went into overdrive and were planning to form special crack teams to parachute into local areas to deal with a problem that for the most part did not exist yet. These plans were soon modified and eventually morphed into the Home Office Drug Prevention Initiative, which set up local drug prevention teams.

As we know, crack eventually did find a significant level on the drug scene and did cause many problems for users and the wider community. But they were not really on the scale predicted by former DEA agent, Robert Stutman, who came to speak to the Association of Chief Police Officers drug conference in 1989. Below is an edited version of what he had to say.

1989: Crack myths and realities in the UK (PDF)