By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Fireworks blasted from Lauder Street on Detroit’s northwest side in celebration of Independence Day. But, the sight of sparklers served as a grim reminder and signaled another victory for Trevor Jones – freedom from addiction.
“My life changed on July 4, 2013. I had been addicted to crack for over 20 years,” explained Jones, whose name has been changed to protect his identity. “I was strung out and had a fireworks blow up in my hand. I was rushed to the hospital and lost two fingers. After my discharge, I was immediately admitted into a rehab center. This was my third time trying to kick my habit, and the third time was the charm.”
Defying popular myths, Jones is not the media’s typical portrayal of a crackhead being an unemployed African American, begging passersby for loose change to support his habit. He’s a 54-year-old Caucasian man, who worked as the chief financial officer for a large company up until three years ago when his accident occurred.
“I tried to hide my addiction from my family and friends,” he said. “I was a functional addict, going to work every day and smoking crack on breaks. No one suspected anything, until I was admitted into the hospital. My lab work revealed cocaine, exposing my secret.”
According to statistics released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2012, Caucasians make up 55 percent of crack users. African Americans account for 37 percent of users. However, the survey revealed that African Americans are 21.2 times more likely to end up in federal prison for a drug charge than Caucasians.
“Today, young white people are nine times more likely to try crack cocaine than young black people, and the disparity is increasing,” noted the report.
“High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It” reports that of the 2.4 million people using cocaine about 600,000 of them use the crack form of the drug.
CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research) describes crack as “the name given to cocaine that has been processed with baking soda or ammonia, and transformed into a more potent, smokable, "rock" form. The name refers to the crackling sound heard when the rock is heated and smoked. Cocaine is a stimulant that has been abused for ages; however, crack cocaine is the most potent form in which the drug has ever appeared. There is great risk when using any form of cocaine, but crack cocaine is the riskiest form of the substance. Smoking a substance allows it to reach the brain more quickly than other routes of administration, and compulsive cocaine use will develop even more rapidly if the substance is smoked rather than snorted.”
The reasons why people turn to crack vary. Some reports say users are self medicating to cover up a trauma, such as domestic violence, rape or abuse. Others link the usage to mental illness.
“Like Vietnam veterans who self medicated with drugs for their post-traumatic stress disorders, at least some pregnant women also use drugs to numb the pain of violent and traumatic life experiences,” reportedly noted the National Advocates for Pregnant Women.
Devastating results have occurred from crack usage, regardless of age and color. Families have been torn apart, separating children from the user. Financial woes are created in attempts to support the habit. Drug related crimes plague neighborhoods. Health problems, such as lung damage, respiratory problems, high blood pressure and Tachycardia or racing heart beat, are also inflicted, which often times are untreated.
“Because crack use itself is known to cause depression and anxiety, using it to alleviate the onset of these feelings becomes a vicious cycle—one that can quickly result in addiction,” says a treatment expert.
Besides changes in mood, there are other signs of crack usage. They include frequent disappearances to get high, dilated pupils, restlessness, increased breathing rate, uncharacteristic irresponsibility, cracked or blistered lips and burns on fingers. However, help is just a call away at the American Addiction Centers 1-888-978-3685.
Celebrating three years of being drug free has given Jones a new lease on life and a new perspective.
“I’m starting over, but I’m much happier clean and working at a local grocery store bagging groceries, than making six figures as a CFO,” he boosts. “My accident opened my eyes and helped me to see things clearer. Crack isn’t a black thing or a white thing. It’s a human problem. It’s true when they say, ‘Drugs take you to hell disguised as heaven.’ But, being drug-free brings you back to reality, and there’s nothing better than having a clear mind.”