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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6, 1997202/307-0703


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The use of crack cocaine by youthful and adult arrestees between 1987 and 1996 declined substantially, according to a report released today by the Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ). Researchers found that the crack epidemic appears to be in decline in many cities on both the East and West Coasts where NIJ's Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) program has been tracking drug use among arrestees.

Reductions in use by youthful arrestees (18-20 years old) are particularly important because they suggest that future crack use will decline or increase more slowly as this group grows older. Manhattan, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Detroit showed the most significant declines in this age group.

In Manhattan, the percentage of youthful arrestees testing positive for cocaine/crack dropped from 70 percent in 1987 to 21 percent in 1996; in Philadelphia from 70 percent in 1988 to 21 percent in 1993; in Washington, D.C. from 64 percent in 1989 to 35 percent in 1996; and, most dramatically, in Detroit the drop was from 45 percent in 1987 to only 5 percent of youthful arrestees testing positive for crack/cocaine in 1996.

Two sites, Omaha and San Antonio, did not appear to experience a crack epidemic of the magnitude seen in other large and many medium-sized U.S. cities. In several sites in the interior sections of the country, including Denver and Indianapolis, the epidemic is still in its plateau stage. High rates of cocaine/crack use among adult and youthful arrestees persisted at a few other DUF sites in the interior of the country, including Atlanta, Phoenix and St. Louis.

"This study shows that we are making progress on crack, but we can't let up now," said Attorney General Janet Reno.

"This report confirms that the drug problems facing our cities vary considerably and warrant their own kind of attention," said NIJ Director Jeremy Travis. "The crack epidemic has shown significant differences from city to city, year to year, and age group to age group. This report also gives grounds for cautious optimism that the crack epidemic is in decline in some cities. Our ability to identify the different stages of drug epidemics will allow us to focus the right resources at the right time."

According to the study, the crack epidemic is following a natural course from incubation to decline since it began in the 1980's, similar to the course seen in other drug epidemics. Crack has followed this general pattern of an epidemic's phases. First, a small group of hard-core users of other drugs are the first users of cocaine in a local area (the incubation phase), which is then followed by a rapid expansion of its use by their friends (the expansion phase). Once the drug becomes popular, it is embraced by young people around the age of 18 (the plateau phase). When the new young people coming of age realize that crack is no longer the drug of choice, the final decline phase sets in. Hard core drug users, however, will continue to use a particular drug despite a decline in that drug's popularity.

For 10 years, the NIJ has administered the DUF program, which conducted quarterly assessments of substance abuse among booked arrestees in 24 sites around the nation. Interviews and urinalysis are conducted with arrestees within 48 hours of arrest. Urinalysis detects evidence of recent use of any of 10 drugs, including cocaine, marijuana, opiates and methamphetamines.

DUF, recently transformed into ADAM, Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program, is expected to expand to other locations in the next year.

Andrew Golub and Bruce Johnson of National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. (NDRI) analyzed data on booked arrestees' recent use of cocaine/crack between 1987 and 1996 through NIJ's DUF program at each of 24 cities nationwide. For a number of years, they have collaborated on studies of crack and heroin use in Manhattan. Using DUF data from across the country they developed the epidemiological model used in this research.

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research arm of the Department of Justice, is the primary sponsor of criminal justice research and evaluations of programs to reduce crime. For general information about NIJ, the Internet address is General information about the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) is available at

Copies of the report are available from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) by calling toll-free, 1-800/851-3420.

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NIJ 97-099

After hours contact: James Phillips at 888/582-6750