Crack Vials

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Two Crack Vials. Plastic CK; ca. 1986 C.E. 13/16” L exclusive of caps, 1/4” diameter. Yellowish tinge thought to be a result of age; vials thought to be originally clear and colorless. Red cap displays a rose, blue cap displays an apple with a bite taken out of it.

Crack, an inexpensively processed and easily smokable form of powder cocaine (an alkaloid derived from Erythroxylon coca), prevents the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Users report that this neurosynaptic phenomenon produces a nearly immediate, overwhelming whole-body euphoria and, in many cases, an irresistible compulsion for a repeat dosage, no matter the cost or inconvenience.

Crack addicts therefore have been known to lie, cheat, steal, sell personal possessions, prostitute themselves or family members, and abandon almost every other human instinct or need, all in the service of their own neural imperatives, and to the profit of the Dope Man. When crack came on the market in the 1980s, its dramatic effects on human bodies and minds were soon understood to be echoed in its impact on individuals and the neighborhoods where they purchased and consumed.

Today, crack serves in America’s mind as a metaphorical yardstick for the most extreme example (usually negative) of any habit, vice, practice, or idea thought by the metaphorist to be wrongly or unduly popular among his or her political or cultural opponents, and crack itself is commonly seen as being among the worst possible behavioral disasters that could befall a person.

Crack has established a place in folklore, almost entirely negative: CIA rumors Other rumors?

Rose/apple emblems – branding? Like weed in bag stamped with brand name? Or accident of manufacture? Rose/applecld be perfume vials Manufacture of crack vials – Zhadonov prosecution – also used for perfume – perfume vials identical to crack vials – difference being in use, or legal intent – ??opiates made paralell about-face ca. 1900?? – weed ditto ??1932?? – no turnaround foreseeable for crack, even most ardent proponents of drug legalization won’t touch this one with a ten-foot pole.

While crack itself is the focus and symbol for a significant amount of contemporary concern and debate, vials like these on display have not achieved the same droll, iconic stature as have stashes of weed and marijuana cigarettes and pipes. Even the tragic symbolic potency of heroin paraphernalia is beyond the utilitarian crack pipe and the humble/dreary vial from which the rocks are shaken out.

This is a drug that has inspired no known praise, romance or humor, other than the “gallows” variety. Can it be that America’s long and colorful history of drug abuse – ranging from patent medicines, to the near-universal disregard of Prohibition, to the casual weed-smoking that shows no signs of going away – reached a vanishing point with crack?

Acquisition Data: Found on a sidewalk in New York City’s Morningside Heights neighborhood. Gift of the collector, 2007.