Crack Cocaine, Other Drugs: Costly, But Not As Addictive As Thought
|January 8, 2014||Posted by Staff under Health|
“Drugs Aren’t the Problem”: Neuroscientist Carl Hart on Brain Science and Myths About Addiction
This 2014 excerpt of Democracy Now!, Jan 6, is by Amy Goodman, interviewing Dr. Carl Hart, the first tenured African-American professor in the sciences at Columbia University and a research scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. However, long before he entered the hallowed halls of the Ivy League, Hart gained firsthand knowledge about drug usage while growing up in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods. He recently wrote a memoir titled High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. His book recalls how he avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies.
Their conversation on the nationwide shift toward liberalizing drug laws continues.
AMY GOODMAN: Both your research findings will surprise many and also your own path in life. Let’s start by talking about, well, where you come from.
DR. CARL HART: Well, I come from — as you said, I grew up in the hood. And so, when we think about these communities that we care about, the communities that have been so-called devastated by drugs of abuse, I believed that narrative for a long time. In fact, I’ve been studying drugs for about 23 years; for about 20 of those years, I believed that drugs were the problems in the community. But when I started to look more carefully, started looking at the evidence more carefully, it became clear to me that drugs weren’t the problem. The problem was poverty, drug policy, lack of jobs — a wide range of things. And drugs were just one sort of component that didn’t contribute as much as we had said they have.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the findings of these studies. I mean, you’ve been publishing in the most elite scientific journals now for many years.
DR. CARL HART: Yes. So, one of the things that shocked me when I first started to understand what was going on, when I discovered that 80 to 90 percent of the people who actually use drugs like crack cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana — 80 to 90 percent of those people were not addicted. I thought, “Wait a second. I thought that once you use these drugs, everyone becomes addicted, and that’s why we had these problems.” That was one thing that I found out. Another thing that I found out is that if you provide alternatives to people — jobs, other sort of alternatives — they don’t overindulge in drugs like this. I discovered this in the human laboratory as well as the animal laboratory. The same thing plays out in the animal literature.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? You’re saying that crack is not as addictive as everyone says?
DR. CARL HART: Well, when we think of crack — well, we have a beautiful example now, the past year: the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, for example. The guy used crack cocaine, and he did his job. Despite what you think of him and his politics, but he came to work every day. He did his job. The same is true even of Marion Barry. He came to work every day, did his job. In fact, he did his job so well, so the people of D.C. thought, that they voted for him even after he was convicted for using crack. But that’s the majority of crack cocaine users. Just like any other drug, most of the people who use these drugs do so without a problem….”
Ed. Notes: If we de-criminalized drugs, we could quit the drug war and save tax dollars and reverse the militarization of the police force who’re supposed to protect and serve. Criminalizing drugs is another example of how politicians misspend public funds and damage lives in doing so.
But nature abhors a vacuum so we’d have to replace the drug war with something. The researcher above mentioned jobs (too bad he didn’t mention startups since many dealers are excellent entrepreneurs). There is a proven way to generate job opportunity. First, don’t tax jobs; taxes on wages only make it more expensive to employers to hire helpers. Second, do tax land or somehow recover the value of locations, whether by tax, fee, dues, or lease. To pay the levy, owners quit speculating and put their sites to good use, and doing that generates jobs.
It’s amazing what some fundamental economic justice can do — just geonomize!