Is Crack Cocaine Linked to More Violent Behavior than Powdered Cocaine?

Crack cocaine use has been blamed for a variety of societal ills, including violent behavior. However, little is known about that link. Researchers analyzed data from the 2001–2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) to compare the frequency of self-reported violent behavior between users of crack or powdered cocaine. Subjects were divided into 2 categories: those who had ever used crack cocaine, and those who had ever used the powdered form only. Violent behaviors were measured using 10 items from the antisocial personality disorder (APD) module of the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview, Schedule-IV.


  • Compared with those who used powdered cocaine, people who used crack cocaine were more likely to be male and African American. They also had lower educational levels and lower income.
  • People in the crack cocaine group reported engaging in a greater number of violent behaviors; however, the association was attenuated after adjusting for sociodemographic factors. Only 1 of the 10 APD behaviors was statistically significant after adjustment.


The study suggests that crack cocaine is not uniquely responsible for more violent behavior than powdered cocaine, and that the observed association is largely due to other factors. Unfortunately, the results provide little insight into the role cocaine use plays in violent behavior, and there are no data on the temporal relationship (if any) between the two. However, they do support the argument that we should not single out crack cocaine use as a greater societal ill than other forms of cocaine use.

Darius Rastegar, MD


Vaughn MG, Fu Q, Perron BE, et al. Is crack cocaine use associated with greater violence than powdered cocaine use? Results from a national sample. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2010;36(4):181–186.

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