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February 24, 1993

Perceptions and Misperceptions of Race and Drug Use

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Psychiatry and Public Health, Columbia University, and the Community Research Group, New York State Psychiatric Institute, New York.

JAMA. 1993;269(8):1034. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500080082037

In 1990 I coauthored an article entitled "Risk for Sexually Transmitted Diseases Among Black Adolescent Crack Users in Oakland and San Francisco, Calif."1 We became interested in the connection between crack cocaine and sexually transmitted diseases because data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, and from the San Francisco Department of Health indicated that gonorrhea rates among 15- to 19-year-old black women in the Bay Area had been increasing dramatically in neighborhoods that were also reporting high rates of crack cocaine—related arrests. We confined our survey to black adolescents because they were identified as being at greatest risk for both gonorrhea and involvement with crack cocaine sales and use in the Bay Area. One regrettable (but predictable) outcome of publishing this article, however, was that it contributed to an already pervasive belief that "crack is a black problem" or, worse, that crack use in the United