USU is distributing safer crack use kits in response to growing health concerns for people who use crack cocaine.  The kits are intended for disease prevention only.  USU does not condone or condemn the use of legal or illegal drugs.  The kits include information on disease prevention practices and supplies such as mouth pieces and copper scrubs to help prevent oral injuries like cuts and burns, which may reduce the potential for disease transmission.  The kits also contain alcohol swabs, band-aids, triple antibiotic ointment, condoms and lube.


The distribution of safer crack use kits is a harm reduction measure developed and researched by Yale University.  This harm reduction intervention will improve the response to a high-risk and underserved group of drug users.  Specifically, the disease prevention kits will help to:

  1. Reduce the spread of disease:  Many people who use crack cocaine are unaware of the associated risks for infectious disease transmission.  Sharing crack stems may be a means of Hepatitis C transmission.  High risk sexual practices, which are associated with the use of crack cocaine, also increase the risk for HIV, Hepatitis B, and other sexually transmitted disease.
  2. Reach isolated and disconnected people:  People who use crack cocaine are one of the most isolated groups of drug users in our community because crack smokers are often denied access to helping services.  Most have little or no contact with health or social services.  The kits have proven to be a valuable tool for outreach workers to initiate and maintain contact with this at-risk population.  Giving users something they can use helps workers build trusting relationships, which in turns helps connect people with supports in the community such as health care, treatment, social services, shelter and housing.


Harm reduction activities aim to reduce the harms associated with substance use for individuals, families and communities.  Recovery from addiction is a long and arduous process.  USU encourages any positive change which includes but does not require abstinence.

There is no evidence that the distribution of safer crack use kits encourages drug use.  Kits are only given to people who already use crack cocaine.  Drug use has always existed and it always will.  Disease prevention kits allow us to reach crack users where they are at and provide them with safer choices.  Dead drug users cannot become abstinent.





Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant extracted from the coca plant.  It is a whitish powder that is usually snorted but can also be injected or taken orally.  Crack is cocaine that has been chemically treated with ammonia or baking-power, creating small lumps or rocks.  The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when a rock is heated.  Crack cocaine can be either smoked or injected.  When smoked, the drug penetrates the thin lung tissue, enters the blood stream, the heart and then the brain.  This allows extremely high doses of cocaine to reach the brain very quickly and brings an intense and immediate high that lasts 5 to 10 minutes.  Some smokers will scrape the residue left over in their pipe and inject it.  Many crack injectors use lemon juice or vinegar to convert the substance into liquid form.


  • UNSAFE SEX:  Some people engage in risky sexual behavior while using crack (unprotected sex in exchange for money/drugs or unprotected sex with injection drug users or multiple partners)
  • USING AND SHARING UNSAFE EQUIPMENT: Use of makeshift smoking pipes such as aluminum cans, car antennas, and broken bottles can cause burns and sores on lips or mouth and may create an entry point for Hepatitis C, and other diseases.  The transmission of disease could occur when these pipes are shared, a frequent practice.
  • INJECTION DRUG USE:  Some people inject crack.  This is becoming a more popular practice.  During compulsive or “binge” episodes (using heavily over a number of days), people may inject numerous times over the course of a day, thereby increasing the risk of HIV/HCV, MRSA, and other infectious diseases.


Media 4 the San Francisco Crack Pipe Exchange

Crackpipes may not be a Crackpot Idea

Time Magazine:  San Francisco Crack Pipe Exchange

Urban Survivors Union « CBS San Francisco







Strike C, Leonard L, Millson M, Anstice S, Berkeley N, Medd E. (2006) Ontario needle exchange

programs: Best practice recommendations. Toronto: Ontario Needle Exchange Coordinating Committee.

Kinzly, M (2008). Crack Institute:  Harm Reduction Interventions.  Harm Reduction Coalition Miami.

Share Button