What drugs were you using at the time of your arrest
and how long have you used drugs?
Brooklyn Treatment Court participants spoke of a full range of types
of substance abuse:
- My drug of choice was crack cocaine.
- My drug of choice was heroin. I sold it, I used it, I smoked crack,
I stole. . . .
- My drug of choice was crack cocaine.
- I was smoking crack, cokeI had such an addiction. . . .
- My choice of drug was marijuana and crack.
- My drug of choice was alcohol and marijuana.
When participants in the Brooklyn groups were asked how long they had
been using drugs, answers ranged from 10 to more than 25 years.
Among participants in the Las Vegas focus groups, methamphetamine was
the most commonly mentioned drug of choice. Marijuana and cocaine together
were also mentioned as principal substances of abuse; several participants
reported crack cocaine to be their principal drug of abuse. Another Las
Vegas participant claimed that she had been addicted to prescription pain
- I had cancer and got addicted to prescription medication. . . . In
fact, I thought I was smart, called in my own prescriptions, and I got
Only one person in one of the focus groups mentioned alcohol as a principal
substance of abuse. Once this person brought up the topic of alcohol,
other participants readily reported frequent alcohol use as a complement
to their preferred drugs of abuse:
- I think alcohols the reason I started doing cocaine, because
Id get so drunk that I wanted something to pick me up, and like
it went hand in hand. They went together.
- Its been involved but its not like a major problem. .
. . Without the drugs its just alcohol. . . .
Others described alcohol as a problem because it either led them to want
to abuse other drugs or because it accompanied use of their preferred
drugs of abuse. One Las Vegas participant thought he had been miscast
in treatment because he was a dealer of drugs and, in his view, did not
abuse them. He merely drank. This view of substance abuse changed for
him while in the drug court:
- I used to drink a lot so it really did help, you know, cause
I used to drink every day. . . .
Thats when it started to dawn on me that I had that problem with
In Miami, many of the participants had been abusing cocaine either as
powder or crack:
- Cocaines my drug.
- Oh, Im in for possession of cocaine and marijuana.
- Im an addict. Ive been using for maybe going on 11 years.
Stayed clean the longest for 5 years. Recently lost my job. Went back
and got high again. Crack cocaine.
- I was born and raised in Miami, south of Miami, and just moved back
to Miami from South Carolina and I was doing every drugyou name
itcept for heroin.
- Im happiest when Im high on cocaine and I been a user
for about 9 years.
- I was a county employee for 17 years, a secretary for the county for
17 years, and I use powder cocaine. Ive been using cocaine for
about 15 years.
- My thing was snorting cocaine, and Im an alcoholic. . . . I
started using because I was in an escort service, which is prostitution,
because I had no other way of surviving and supporting my children.
. . . And for me to do the coke and drink, I couldnt see these
men without being high.
Some Miami participants talked about the role of alcohol:
- You start with alcohol, then go to drugs, then to cocaine. . . .
- Alcohols a trigger, so I dont use alcohol.
- Oh, alcohols a problem. . . . I drink, I get so high. So call
me dumb, I drink.
- I black out with alcohol.
- If I drink right now, Im done. If I drink a bottle right now,
Im gonna need a hit to straighten me out. Im done.
- Im in the program and I use alcohol every night.
Among Portland participants, cocaine and crack cocaine were described
as the principal drugs of abuse, although one participant reported regular
heroin use and two reported regular use of methamphetamines:
- Well, Im 48 years old and Ive been using drugs all my
life. . . .
- My drug problem was cocaine. I was a smoker; I free-based. . . . For
a brief moment I had a $500-a-day habit.
- My drug of choice was alcohol. I was there for possession of cocaine.
- My drug of choice was crack . . . every day, all day, every day, all
- I got arrested for possession of heroin. I was using $10 to $20, three
to four times a week.
- My drug of choice was speedballs.
- My drug was pot. I did meth every now and then, but pot was my big
In Portland, many participants reported regular use (meaning many times
a day) of cocaine or crack, which they always combined with alcohol consumption.
Portland participants did not have to be prompted to talk about alcohol
as a drug likely to be abused, and those who felt that it was a problem
for them freely mentioned it either as an important part of their addiction
problem or as one of their other drugs of choice.
- I drank pretty much daily and I binged.
In the San Bernardino focus groups, cocaine and methamphetamine appeared
to be the most common drugs of choice:
- Im here for cocaine.
- My drug of choice was speed, and Ive been a user for about 14
- My drug of choice was speed, and I used for about 16 years.
- My drug of choice was coke, and Ive been using off and on for
- Cocaine. . . . Ive had this problem ongoing for about 23 years.
- My drug of choice was speed.
- My drug that I loved was speed. . . . [I was involved with it] about
- My drug of choice was cocaine . . . and I been using off and on for
- My drug of choice was marijuana and alcohol. . . . Ive been
using for about 3 years.
In Seattle, the drug court population seemed predominantly heroin-involved:
- Heroin. Twelve years.
- I started to do drugs of all kinds from the time I was 13 years old
and started using heroin at about 2728 years old. Heroins
what got me here.
- Ive been doing drugs for about 25 years. Heroin mostly.
- Ive been using for about 20 years. My drug of choice is heroin
- Ive been using drugs for 23 years.
- Ive been involved with drugs for the past 35 years. My drug
of choice is heroin.
Back to Participant Histories
Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts