The Return of Cocaine and the Rise of the Cartels 1970s - 1980s
Drug use in America reached its peak in 1979, when one in ten Americans used drugs on a regular basis. During the 1970s, cocaine reappeared, touted as the "champagne of drugs" because it was expensive, high-status, and said to have no serious consequences. The price dropped steadily, and by the mid-1980s, six million Americans used it regularly. Cocaine was gradually rediscovered to be highly addictive and dangerous, a fact driven home by the death of college basketball star Len Bias in June 1986.
By then, drug mafias based in Colombia were powerful, well-organized, and entrenched. When their middle-class customers began to shun powder cocaine, these criminals refocused on traditional inner-city drug markets. They introduced crack, an intensely addictive and relativley cheap form of smokable cocaine, setting off America’s most devastating drug epidemic. Whole communities were overwhelmed by the scope and horror of this drug. American law enforcement was also initially overwhelmed.

Crack viles and airplane full of cocaine bails
Illegal Drugs in America Introduction page America's First Drug Epidemic Enforcing New Drug Laws The Rise of the Modern Drug Culture The Return of Cocaine and the Rise of the Cartels The DEA Today Museum Exhibits Home page


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