Arms against illness: Crack cocaine and drug policy in the United States

Beverly Xaviera Watkins, Robert E. Fullilove, Mindy Thompson Fullilove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The emergence of crack cocaine use in the United States during the mid-1980s was one of the most significant public health problems of that era. Crack use contributed to a series of sexually transmitted disease epidemics, to epidemic increases in violent injuries and homicides, and to significant increases in the incidence and prevalence of cocaine addiction. Despite these threats to health and safety, a national public health campaign to counter crack-related morbidity and mortality was never mounted. To the contrary, the strongest response to the crack epidemic has come from the police and the courts. As a result, crack-related crimes have accounted for dramatic increases in the numbers of adolescents and adults imprisoned in the United States. Scarce attention to the public health dimensions of these policies, let alone the human rights implications, has been catastrophic for affected individuals and communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-58
Number of pages16
JournalHealth and human rights
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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