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Crack Whore & Crack Head | Crack Addiction’s Stigma & Derogatory Terms

Published on February 10, 2021
Crack Whore & Crack Head | Crack Addiction's Stigma & Derogatory Terms

Crack cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug. It causes a surge of happiness and energy by increasing the amount of dopamine (a natural chemical associated with pleasure) in your brain.

Even short-term crack use can lead to a serious disease called crack addiction. Like most addictions, crack addiction is surrounded by stigma

What Is A Stigma?

Stigma occurs when someone experiences judgment and discrimination based on a certain characteristic. Many people use the word “stigma” to refer specifically to judgment and discrimination based on diseases.

Diseases that often attract stigma include HIV, skin diseases, and mental illnesses (including addiction). 

Crack Addiction Stigma

Crack addiction is among the most widely stigmatized addictions. This may be because crack cocaine is cheaper than many other drugs and popular among poor communities of color—communities that already face stigma. 

Scientists have proven that crack addiction is a disease that changes your brain chemistry. However, people who stigmatize crack addiction view it as a choice, weakness, or moral failure. They may also see people with the addiction as untrustworthy or dangerous. 

This stigma makes it difficult for someone with crack addiction to find support. Their friends and family might shame, guilt, or reject them instead of helping them receive treatment.

A person with crack addiction may also face stigma from professionals. For example, doctors who view the disease as a moral failure may provide subar care or refuse to provide care at all. 

Similarly, some law enforcement officials treat people charged with crack-related offenses with derision or even abuse. 

Derogatory Terms Associated With Crack Addiction

People who stigmatize crack addiction often use derogatory terms such as crack head and crack whore. Crack head refers to someone who regularly uses crack cocaine. Crack whore refers to someone who exchanges sexual favors for crack cocaine (or for money to buy crack cocaine). 

Some people also use other derogatory terms to describe people with addictions in general, such as:

  • addict
  • druggie
  • junkie

All of these terms contribute to stigma by defining a person by their struggle with addiction. They ignore the fact that people with crack addictions are whole, valuable, unique human beings who simply have a disease. 

That’s why you should use person-first language, such as “a person who suffers from crack addiction,” instead (unless the person requests otherwise). Such language communicates the person’s humanity and helps decrease stigma. 

The Impact Of Crack Addiction Stigma

Stigma can have devastating and even life-threatening effects on someone with crack addiction. For example, the person might:

  • struggle to find or keep a job
  • struggle to find good medical care
  • struggle to find supportive friends
  • experience physical violence and harassment 
  • feel depressed, isolated, and hopeless
  • continue using crack to numb the pain that comes with being stigmatized

They may also believe they’re unworthy of addiction treatment or avoid treatment because they’re afraid of being shamed and mistreated. Without proper treatment, people with crack addictions face a higher risk of life-threatening health problems like:

They’re also more likely to be incarcerated for drug-related offenses. In many cases, incarceration makes addiction worse. That’s because most jails and prisons don’t offer proper care for people who struggle with substance abuse. 

How To Fight Stigma Toward Crack Addiction

Stigma usually occurs because people fear what they don’t understand. Thus, to decrease stigma, you should learn as much as you can about crack addiction and share your knowledge with others. 

Let people know that crack addiction is a disease, not a choice or weakness. Emphasize that individuals with addictions are whole, valuable human beings by encouraging others to describe them using person-first language. Remind people that language matters

If you or someone you love struggles with crack cocaine addiction, please reach out to an Ark Behavioral Health specialist to learn about our comprehensive treatment options. 

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Addressing the Stigma that Surrounds Addiction
National Institute on Drug Abuse - What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Words Matter - Terms to Use and Avoid When Talking About Addiction
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Cocaine
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Stigma and prejudice: the experience of crack users

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