Regularity of Substance Use Among Arrestees in the Five Boroughs of New York City

Bruce D. Johnson, N. D. R. I., Inc.
Tracy Durrah, N. D. R. I., Inc.
Andrew Lang Golub, N. D. R. I., Inc.

Illegal drug procurement can be conducted in many quantity levels, but most street level users tend to buy very small quantities very frequently, even though buying in larger quantities less often would result in three advantages: (1) less exposure to dangers from law enforcement, drug dealers and other drug users, (2) discount prices, and (3) less time and effort lost in making drug buys. This paper investigates reasons for and consequences of making routine small purchases and consumption of small retail units. Interviewers recruited over 600 users and/or distributors of crack, powder cocaine and heroin in Central Harlem. Respondents were asked to provide quantity and price information for these drugs and marijuana, alcohol and tobacco in 1 and 7 day periods preceding the interview. Respondents were also asked about their household situation and contact with law enforcement. Users of crack cocaine were more likely to buy small quantities more often than powder cocaine, heroin or marijuana users. Even crack users who consume other drugs buy crack in smaller amounts and more often than the other drugs they use. Persons who primarily used crack cocaine spent a larger proportion of their income on drugs than users of other drugs. Users and sellers of crack cocaine were also more likely to have multiple contacts with criminal justice system than users and sellers of other substances. Since market factors at the street level are quite similar for all illegal drugs, crack cocaine users are more compulsive in their drug buying and consuming behaviors than users of other illegal substances, apparently because of pharmacological factors.

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Updated 05/20/2006