Are all crack users addicts?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on March 21st, 2010 - Last updated: September 18th, 2019
This content was written in accordance with our Editorial Guidelines.


Further Reading

Dear Stanton,

Many social and moderate drinkers never have a dependency problem. Maybe 10 to 15 pct do. What other substances can be used moderately and responsibly and not cause problems? Marijuana? cocaine? opiates? speed? Are the reasons related? (I know crack is not in any safe group.) Are figures available on this?


Dear Tom:

All drugs can be used in a controlled manner. Put in another way, a small minority of all people who have ever used any ILLICIT drug use the drug currently; a small minority of those who use it currently use it regularly; a small minority of regular users use it compulsively. Contrary to popular opinion, crack is no more likely to be used compulsively than powdered cocaine.

That this is true is readily available in government documents, on line and in print. The NIDA site maintains the annual Monitoring the Future (high school drug use) data. These data inflate the percentage who have ever used the drug who currently use it because of the youth of the respondents. Nonetheless, they make the basic points above. The survey finds for example that, in 1999, ten (9.8) percent of high school seniors report that they have ever used cocaine, and five (4.6) percent have used crack. In the last 30 days, three (2.6) percent used cocaine while one (1.1) percent used crack. So that, even with this youthful population, fewer than a third of those who have used crack used it in the last month, while a smaller proportion, less than a quarter, who have ever used crack have used it in the last 30 days. No percentages are provided for daily use of these drugs — which are minimal.

Yes, the reasons for this moderation are the same with drugs as for alcohol. In my favorite psychopharmacological study, undergraduate students at a major university were fed amphetamines by researchers (human and animal subjects generally react in the same manner to amphetamines and cocaine). Although they reported elation when on the drug, they generally declined to use as much of the substance in successive trials. What they were saying was that, while they very much enjoyed the effects of the drugs, they were not prepared to continue doing so because it would likely interfere with their larger academic life.


Johanson, C. E., and Uhlenhuth, E. H. (1981). Drug preference and mood in humans: Repeated assessment of d-amphetamine. Pharmacology Biochemistry Behavior, 14, 159-163.

Johnston, L.D., O’Malley, P.M., and Bachman, J.G. (2000). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use, 1975-1999. Volume I: Secondary school students (NIH Publication No. 00-4802). Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *