When Getting High Is a Hobby, Not a Habit - Drug Use for Grown-Ups

smell my finger

strive nonetheless towards beauty and truth,
Aug 8, 2001
92,607
N NJ
DRUG USE FOR GROWN-UPS
Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear

By Carl L. Hart



NONFICTION

When Getting High Is a Hobby, Not a Habit


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“I discovered that the predominant effects produced by the drugs discussed in this book are positive,” Carl L. Hart writes in his new book. “It didn’t matter whether the drug in question was cannabis, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or psilocybin.”Credit...via Carl L. Hart



  • Published Jan. 12, 2021Updated Jan. 14, 2021
DRUG USE FOR GROWN-UPS
Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear

By Carl L. Hart

It doesn’t take long to get to what is perhaps the boldest and most controversial statement in Carl Hart’s new book, “Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear.” In the prologue, he writes, “I am now entering my fifth year as a regular heroin user.” In all honesty, I don’t know how to feel about this admission. It’s not easy to square all that I’ve learned about this drug with the image I also hold of Hart: a tenured professor of psychology at Columbia University, an experienced neuroscientist, a father.

Hart knows this. He knows about the discomfort his readers might feel when they encounter his full-throated endorsement of opiates for recreational use. He offers the information in a spirit of radical transparency because he believes that if “grown-ups” like him would talk freely about the role of drugs in their lives, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in, a mess brought about by our ruinous drug policies, which have had such profound — and profoundly unequal — consequences for those who fall afoul of them.

For Hart, it wasn’t always so. Coming up in hard circumstances in Miami, Hart too bought into the widespread belief that “smoking crack is like putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger,” as one particularly memorable public service announcement put it. In 1986, he listened in “disbelief” as James Baldwin, his intellectual hero, argued for the legalization of drugs, believing that the recently passed Anti-Drug Abuse Act would be used disproportionately against poor and Black people.


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Of course, we now know that Baldwin was right: Our drug policies have resulted in the wildly disproportionate imprisonment of Black Americans. As Hart argues, the drug war has in fact succeeded, not because it has reduced illegal drug use in the United States (it hasn’t), but because it has boosted prison and policing budgets, its true, if unstated, purpose. In his last book, “High Price,” Hart described his evolving views on drugs and those who use them, a gradual rejection of the overly simplistic idea that drugs are inherently evil, the destroyers of people and neighborhoods.

Here, Hart goes quite a bit further. He has been studying the neurochemistry of different drugs for years, including crack cocaine and methamphetamine. He summarizes his research findings in this way: “I discovered that the predominant effects produced by the drugs discussed in this book are positive. It didn’t matter whether the drug in question was cannabis, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or psilocybin.” The positive effects Hart cites include greater empathy, altruism, gratitude and sense of purpose. For Hart personally, coming home and smoking heroin at the end of the day helps him to “suspend the perpetual preparation for battle that goes on in my head,” he writes.

I met Hart once, in 2016, when I interviewed him for an article I was writing about Adderall. He told me that for a responsible adult, it could make more sense to take a small dose of Adderall than to use caffeine — because Adderall has “less calories.” At the time, I was struck by his candor. Now I understand that this is his driving purpose: to demystify drugs, to advocate for the right to “the pursuit of pleasure” enshrined in the Declaration of Independence itself.

Hart’s argument that we need to drastically revise our current view of illegal drugs is both powerful and timely, but the question of addiction lingers in the background. It is not one he attempts to resolve. In fact, he declares that his book is “unapologetically” not about addiction. Most users of any drug will not become addicted, he says, putting the figure at around 70 percent. He sees the “opioid crisis” as deserving of scare quotes, likening it to trumped-up drug scares of yore. “Much of the reporting on opioids is bull****,” Hart writes, and doesn’t account for the fact, for example, that many deaths declared opioid overdoses are actually the result of opioids mixed with alcohol or other sedatives.

Journalists writing about drugs are one of several groups of people that Hart expresses frustration with throughout his book. Others include members of the psychedelic community for insisting that their “plant medicines” are a “superior class of drug” and for not coming to the defense of drugs with more tainted reputations, like PCP. On the list is also his son’s school, colleagues in the drug research world whom he calls out by name and people who didn’t engage with his ideas, like Dr. Leana Wen, who, as the health commissioner of Baltimore, was apparently unwilling to introduce drug-safety testing to bring down the number of overdoses in the city, as Hart had suggested to her. “Thankfully for the people of Baltimore,” he writes, Wen left to become president of Planned Parenthood. “Less than a year later, she was fired. I wish I could say I’m surprised.”

In these moments, Hart’s writing can turn from passionate and moral to what feels like score-settling, undercutting the tenor of his narrative. But when it comes to the legacy of this country’s war on drugs, we should all share his outrage.
 

I<3URANUS

I can ride my bike with no handlebars.
OT Supporter
Sep 17, 2002
44,353
Dallas, TX
While I think all drugs should be legal (or at least not punishable by jail time) recreational heroin smoking is probably not a good idea.
 

Dylith

OT Supporter
Jun 13, 2005
35,746
I've been drunk a couple of times, but have never tried drugs (save for taking one opiate painkiller after having surgery). Drugs and alcohol have been pretty rough on my family - I'm not sure I know many people who fit into the category the author discusses (or perhaps I do and just don't know it).
 
TS
TS
smell my finger

smell my finger

strive nonetheless towards beauty and truth,
Aug 8, 2001
92,607
N NJ
I've been drunk a couple of times, but have never tried drugs (save for taking one opiate painkiller after having surgery). Drugs and alcohol have been pretty rough on my family - I'm not sure I know many people who fit into the category the author discusses (or perhaps I do and just don't know it).

I think he makes some valid points (from reading the book review) but it's pretty clear that a large percentage of people cannot regulate their opioid intakes like he's able to. he's probably addicted also.
 

Remy Bressant

40 big girls and a bottle
OT Supporter
Jul 24, 2015
30,890
SoCal
I thought this was going to be about weed or microdosing ketamine or shrooms

Nope dis dude chasing the dragon 🐉
Exactly :rofl:
“Oh cool this is probably about microdosing or shrooms in general”
YOU THOUGHT! Enjoy this well written opinion piece about coming home and smoking hee-ron
 

I<3URANUS

I can ride my bike with no handlebars.
OT Supporter
Sep 17, 2002
44,353
Dallas, TX
I think he makes some valid points (from reading the book review) but it's pretty clear that a large percentage of people cannot regulate their opioid intakes like he's able to. he's probably addicted also.
I would imagine there's a pretty significant physical and mental dependency at this point.
 
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Phx Cobra

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2006
56,206
AZ
While he has an obvious point about the over demonization of certain substances, I don't think the average person with existing substance dependency issues can say they do it for "fun." Having not read the book, only this article, he seems to base his argument in assumption and personal self control, when that may not really be the norm for most people.
There is a fine line to walk between addiction and recreation with many drugs, especially opiates which do have significant withdrawal symptoms due to their physical addiction, not just some made up addiction or habit.
I am totally fine with all these drugs being decriminalized, but I wouldn't go as far as to encourage kids to embrace them, just like I wouldn't tell a 12yr old kid to go drink a 12 pack.
 

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