Saving a drug addict | Don't do it: A crackhead alert!


                     DON'T DO IT: A CRACKHEAD ALERT!

                                                    By Isaac J. Black

(Several years ago, my "don't do" primer for African-American children was read during a Teen Drug Workshop at the annual State Convention of the NAACP in Syracuse, New York.  My intent was to alert our young people of the dangers ahead if they dared to try crack. This short essay should be read, discussed, and distributed to our young children and teenagers with due speed....)

Have you ever wondered why "crack" is not called "peace"? Or "love"? Or "salvation"?

                                                          * * *

The Black girl, her face ashen and braids frazzled, eyed me suspiciously. I signed the log and stood over her in the detention room. She was heading upstate, so at first she didn't mumble a word. She knew the deal: "Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance." She'd been caught with thirteen vials of crack and one hundred fifty dollars in marked currency. My notes said she was "a user." She had a black eye, blotchy skin, dirt under her fingernails and looked emaciated. In a soiled T-shirt and baggy jeans, she rocked nervously in her chair. Her nose ran, and her eyes were bloodshot. She'd been squatting in hallways and was "piss-stained," to quote her mother. A school truant. Fourteen. I'd seen it before.

When I sat down I could smell the musk. I didn't tell her what I really thought. Why were there two sores on her upper lip? And why was her lower lip swollen? The odor in my nostrils grew stronger as she leaned toward me. First, there was one tear. And then she was sobbing. I said, "Hey, look, things will get better!" I wished that I could roll the clock forward. If she were sitting at my group "roundtable," I would draw a large box on the blackboard. "This is a coffin," I would begin. "It's where you're heading!" She would hear the hurt in my voice.

                                                            * * *

Deshawn, Cynthia, Pop, Nicole, Omar, Larry: Can You Hear Me?

When you use dope, people think you're a "dope?" Why? Because the evidence is overwhelming that your "euphoria" will lead you to ill health, weight loss, a lack of sexual appetite, a disjointed family life, the scourge of loved ones; the lost of whatever job you might have, the risk of catching a terminal disease, drug related criminal activity; probable arrest, worry, sleepless nights, paranoia, depression, the likelihood of an EARLY DEATH.

Forget about school! Poor soul, you won't care. People you know will eyeball you as if you're lower than a roach. "CRACKHEAD!" they'll shout. But it'll come at you in whispers and weird stares. Family will say you are "irritable," have mood swings and "look sick." Who, me? But when was the last time you took a bath? Or sat down to eat a decent meal? You're speaking English, certainly sound intelligent, so why doesn't anyone understand? No, you didn't take the VCR! So why does Mama look afraid? And why is she asking for the key? Who but a dope would want to be part of such a nightmare? Who but a dope?

                                                          * * *

Have you seen that story, "Mother Sells Her Daughter for Crack?"

                                                           * * *

A test? The police find an apartment reddened by bodies. They're either riddled with bullets--shot in the back of the head--or throats are slashed. Would you be surprised if the morning newspapers said, "DRUG RELATED DEATHS"?

                                                           * * *

Would you want your child to marry a drug dealer or user? If "dope" is so good, why not?

                                                           * * *

Where do crackheads go? (A) To jail, (B) To the grave, (C) To the alleyway or street corner, (D) To all of the above?

                                                           * * *

But maybe, you say, you can get your "Props." But what does getting your "props" mean to you? Tainted money? A show? You're "dissin" your mama when you're peddling death. She's not safe. You're "dissin" your neighborhood, our locked-inside grandparents, scared-to-go-to-school children, yourself. Listen to me: when we see you in a Mercedes Benz, what do you think we think? In a split second, we think "drug dealer." We do not think HERO. We do not think SUCCESS. We do not ENVY you. You are scum, and despicable. The roll of green in your pocket is insignificant. WE count you as a blight on the race. As a FAILURE. A MISFIT. If anything, we wonder why you do not feel shame and embarrassment. But of course we know the answer. You have NO INSIGHT or awareness. If you did, you wouldn't walk down a road that leads nowhere. Think about it! How many travelers have made it your way? You don't understand odds or statistics. If you did, you'd realize that it's easier to hit the jackpot at Atlantic City, than win at your game: CRACKPOT.

                                                           * * *

Before I left, I handed the Black girl a sheet of paper. The free hotline number, 1-800-662-HELP,  would direct her to the nearest "save-you" program in her neighborhood. She smiled, realizing that I was already looking beyond her eventual release. I began talking. For several minutes I tried to circle her body with my voice. I tried to make every word count, every nuance in tone. She repeated my name and looked relieved. Once she was steady I didn't mention the welcoming bed or the scrambled eggs in the morning.

I asked: Do you know who Dr. King is? Or Malcolm X? Yeah, she said, I heard of them. What do you think they'd say about crack and what you've been doing? I don't know, she said. I wanted to hold a mirror to her face. I wanted her to see why Mom was sobbing outside.

She had once been pretty.


                                  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isaac Black is the founder of Black Excel: The College Help Network. He has helped hundreds of young people get into college, but has also worked with teenagers who have made missteps, often involving drugs. You can e-mail him  at or visit his college help website (ranked one of the top 25 in the nation) at <>.