Carl Hart: adults & drugs

POSTED: May 31, 2021

Over the weekend I listened to a lengthy episode of Steve Levitt’s podcast People I (Mostly) Admire, in which he talked with Professor Carl Hart about his new book Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear.

According to Wikipedia, “Hart is the Ziff Professor of Psychology (in Psychiatry) and former chair of the psychology department at Columbia University. Hart arrived at Columbia in 1998; in 2009, he became one of the first tenured African American professors of sciences at Columbia University. His area of expertise is neuropsychopharmacology. His general research focus is in the behavioral and neuropharmacological effects of psychoactive drugs in humans. He has a particular interest in the social and psychological factors that influence self-administration of drugs. He is the Principal Investigator at Columbia University’s Neuropsychopharmacology Lab”

On his website Doctor Hart writes that

I wrote this book to present a more realistic image of the typical drug user: a responsible professional who happens to use drugs in his pursuit of happiness. Also, I wanted to remind the public that no benevolent government should forbid autonomous adults from altering their consciousness, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others.

After reading this book, I hope you will be less likely to vilify individuals merely because they use drugs. That thinking has led to an incalculable number of deaths and an enormous amount of suffering. I am confident that you will come away with an appreciation for the prodigious potential good derived from drug use and a deeper understanding of why so many responsible grown-ups engage in this behavior.

If the ideas expressed in this book are embraced, we can get on with the business of treating each other better and enjoying more meaningful and fulfilling lives. And isn’t that what we all want?

He has complained about the ways in which the mainstream media sensationalise his findings, his evidence-based arguments, and his advocacy for what he now regards as common sense solutions.

You might regard this article in the New York Times as a fine example of what he means.

This Heroin-Using Professor Wants to Change How We Think About Drugs

Prof. Carl Hart saw drugs as destroyers of communities. Then he saw the positive side. “We have miseducated the public,” he said.

Carl L. Hart, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, fielded questions the other day about his new book, which makes an unconventional case for drug use.

Dr. Hart, are you on anything now?

“No. I’m in interview season now,” he said on a recent afternoon. “Why would you waste your substance on an interview? You have to concentrate and focus.”

Grown ups, we love ‘em.