Dr. Carl Hart: Demystifying Drugs

Dr. Carl Hart: Demystifying Drugs

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Carl Hart’s most recent book, Drugs for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, talks about the role of drugs in the lives of responsible adults and why we should decriminalize all drugs. Hart is an expert on this subject matter, a well-regarded neuroscientist and researcher on drugs’ effects on our daily lives. He is also a fierce advocate for upholding constitutional rights when it comes to consuming any substance. So long as you do not interfere with others in your pursuit of happiness, the government should have no say in what you choose to consume. However, it’s important to note that Hart was not raised in an environment that supported these theories. He followed a path that led him to these beliefs through science.

Following a career in academic research, Hart’s mission is to educate the public on the truth about drugs. With science at the forefront of all of his lectures, Hart logically and biologically explains how drugs affect us while debunking the myths around addiction. Hart is a brilliant educator, groundbreaking researcher, and recreational drug user, a frontrunner in the fight for humane drug policies and decriminalization.


Who is Carl Hart

Dr. Carl Hart is the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University. He is also the Ziff Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychology (in Psychiatry). Furthermore, he has published many scientific papers and articles on neuropsychopharmacology, which is the study of how drugs affect the mind. His book High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society won the PEN/E.O Wilson Literary Science Writing Award in 2014.

In addition to his acclaimed writing, Hart is featured on several podcasts, radio, television shows, documentaries, and many popular publications. He is a husband and father of three. As Hart’s recent book review in the New York Times states: “when getting high is a hobby, not a habit,” Hart embodies this sentiment perfectly. Hart aims to destigmatize drug use among responsible adults and set an example that shows you can be a highly educated human that likes to get high.

Becoming Dr. Carl Hart

Born in an impoverished Miami neighborhood in 1966, Hart experienced firsthand what is still so relevant today as a hardwired line of thinking – that drugs are the root cause of poverty, violence, and crime. His mother left his abusive father when he was six. He witnessed his sister get injured in a drive-by shooting when he was 12. Hart participated in crimes like petty theft and using and selling drugs. He admittedly even carried a gun periodically. He fathered a child in his teens, though he didn’t know this until that child was a teenager himself. His life’s work is now devoted to proving drugs alone are not the cause of these societal dysfunctions but instead, many complicated and misunderstood social maladies coming together to create a perfect storm of poverty and lack of opportunity.

Education

When Hart didn’t receive the basketball scholarship he was hoping for after high school, he decided to join the Air Force. He considered his time in the military as an opportunity to “atone for his sins” in a way since his youth was full of what society would call deviant behavior. While stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Hart smoked weed with his friends for entertainment and relaxation in a somewhat dull environment. The decision to take college courses was a contingency plan in the event he was caught smoking weed and kicked out of the military.

Going to college because of cannabis is a somewhat ironic predictor of what he ended up studying. Believing that if he studied neurobiology and crack cocaine, he could use this education to help solve some of his community’s problems. This was the 80s, at the height of what America called the ‘crack epidemic’. But as he continued to study, he learned that it wasn’t the drugs causing these problems. They were “bigger problems: poverty, unemployment, mainstream society not caring about poor people, the works.” Hart touches more on this in the Netflix documentary Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy.

Hart earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from the University of Maryland. He attended UNC Wilmington, where he worked with Robert Hakan, an expert in pharmacology and neuroscience. Following his time in North Carolina, Hart went on to earn his Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Wyoming. Passionate about education, Hart became an educator at one of the country’s most prestigious ivy league universities.

Career

Dr. Carl Hart is the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University. He is the Chair of the Department of Psychology and the Dirk Ziff Professor of Psychology (in Psychiatry) at Columbia. His laboratory research specifically focuses on investigating the behavioral and neuropharmacological effects of psychoactive drugs in humans. Hart aims to understand the factors that lead up to a person’s decision to self-administer drugs. With this information, he hopes for drug policy and destigmatizing drug use, with evidence from lab-based research as the backbone of his advocacy.

Hart speaks at many conferences, holds interviews with everyone from the Washington Post to the New York Times, and is featured on popular media such as Joe Rogan and Bill O’Reilly and multiple documentaries. He is a progressive educator and puts himself at the forefront of his advocacy. By acknowledging that he is a drug user, including cocaine, heroin, and MDMA, among others, Hart hopes to show the masses that we are misled when it comes to the behaviors and habits of the typical drug user. Hart’s research shows that somewhere near 80% of drug users are not addicts. However, many drug users are closeted for fear of being lumped into a category of lazy degenerates, inciting crime and violence.

His commitment is to “the people who are sick and tired of seeing their tax dollars being used to fund unethical people and corporations, which ultimately perpetuates social inequality and does not lead to effective drug policy.” For Hart, it all comes down to empirical evidence. If you are unwilling to listen to science, you will not be able to shift your perspective. Since we’ve been lied to about drugs, our drug policies are ineffective and harmful. Hart believes decriminalization for all drugs is the only way to have an effective criminal justice policy, which will improve society overall.

Psychoactive Research

From Hart’s perspective – knowledge is power when it comes to drug use. We need realistic education to use drugs responsibly. For example, it’s not that methamphetamine in itself is an evil substance. But a person needs to understand what the drug will do to them biologically to mitigate any harmful effects. You might not want to do methamphetamine in the evening, or you may not be able to sleep. This is also assuming that we are talking about responsible, mature adults with the intention of using clean, tested drugs at an appropriate dose.

Hart’s research is the scientific basis for his global presentations, with a robust argument for all drugs’ decriminalization. He often refers to the criminalization of crack cocaine (often associated with Black communities), even though statistically, there is a much higher usage rate of crack cocaine and powdered cocaine by white people. This is a massive social problem, furthered by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. This law called for the same mandatory minimum sentence for five grams of crack and 500 grams of cocaine. To be clear – there are no pharmacological differences between the two drugs.

Hart’s research is rooted in the science of neuropharmacology, and it’s the behavioral, social, and psychological factors influencing drug use that he is hyper-focused on. With these scientific facts, society must reconsider what is believed to be true about drug users, drug crimes, and what describes addiction. It’s all in the data.

“Predictors of Drug Use in Prison Among Incarcerated Black Men”

Hart co-published this piece of research in 2012. The study is based on drug use within US prisons, with the foundational fact that 13.6% of the population is Black, yet 37.8% of prisoners are Black, and 79% of people who are incarcerated for using crack are also Black. The study examined 134 randomly selected Black men in maximum security prisons. Using the ASI (Addiction Severity Index), Hart and his fellow researchers studied the history of drug use among these men and the extent to which they were still using drugs while incarcerated.

Of the 134 participants, 75% reported a history of using drugs. Of that 75%, nearly 25% reported using drugs during their time in prison. The studies also showed that the men with long histories of drug use and longer prison sentences were more likely to use drugs while incarcerated.

These results are significant because they suggest prisoners may benefit from drug treatment therapies and education in harm reduction while they are imprisoned.  Specifically, drug treatment programs geared towards long-standing addictions would be beneficial for prisoners with lengthy sentences. Coping mechanisms to help manage addiction and prevent relapse must be considered as part of rehabilitation within all prison systems.

“Developing Pharmacotherapies for Cannabis and Cocaine Use Disorders”

In this study, Hart partners with Wendy L. Lynch to explore the variety of treatments offered for cannabinoid and cocaine addiction. While many treatments were found to be quite useful for reducing cannabinoid withdrawal in lab animals, treatment for cocaine addiction was less successful. More people seek rehabilitation for cannabinoid addictions than any other drug. However, it’s important to note that while the withdrawal treatments are successful with lab animals, it has not been replicated in humans. Furthermore, the lab animals responded to the medications, but no medicine has proven to alter the behavior that causes a human to self-administer or consume cannabis.

Similarly, after decades of research, there is still no approved cocaine pharmacotherapy, despite numerous attempts to find a successful medication. However, some evidence shows a demonstrated ability for medication to work within some subpopulations of individuals with cocaine addiction. This suggests that perhaps treatment must be tailored to meet the unique needs of the individual. Hart argues that these varied results further prove that addiction is a disease, not a crime.

Carl Hart Quotes

“Let’s think about it like driving. You go on a two-lane highway, cars going in each direction. You’re driving towards the oncoming traffic. You have to stay in your lane; that person has to stay in their lane. So we know that there are irresponsible people on the road, but yet we still get on the road with cars. We have police to help remind people what the rules are, like when they speed too fast. We have seatbelts, we have other safety requirements, like an age requirement. You have to pass an exam before you can drive. So you have all these safety points put in. Safety measures can do the same thing with drugs. You put in safety measures.”

“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.”

“I have to make sure I don’t engage in conversations with people who don’t abide by the rules of evidence.”

“In the mainstream, I’m suspect because I’m Black. I have dreadlocks, I have a goatee. I mean, I’m just suspect. In my classroom and at Columbia, I’m not as suspect because it’s clear I know what I’m doing, but I am still suspect.”

“If politicians did care about their constituents, they would work harder to seek out people like me. They don’t.”

“I strongly discourage any intellectuals, regardless of race, from speaking on matters for which they have limited or no expertise.”

“Too often, ill-informed rhetoric has led to emotional hysteria that obfuscates solid evidence regarding the real problems faced by poor people and, in overwhelmingly great proportions, by black people.”

“Science should be driving our drug policies, even if it makes us uncomfortable.”

“What kind of man would I be if I didn’t stand up for liberty for all?”

“I certainly engaged in petty crime, but it had nothing to do with drug addiction. It was about money and status. In other words, if you take drugs out of the equation, poverty and crime still exist.”

“I think people are curious at some level, and they want to alter their current state of being. I mean, that could be from curiosity, that could be from stress, that can be from some other sort of ailments or problem that they are experiencing or could just be from boredom, but humans have always attempted to alter their consciousness.”

In Culture

Dr. Carl Hart was recently on Delic Radio. Listen to Delic founder, Jackee Stang speak to Dr Hart about drug use for adults, demystifying drugs, and more.

Awards and Honors

Hart has received multiple awards, including:

  • Columbia University Presidential Teaching Award
  • Humanitarian Award from Mothers Against Teen Violence
  • PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award for High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society

Books

  • 2021 – Drugs for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear
  • 2018 – Drugs, Society and Human Behavior (co-authored with Charles Ksir)
  • 2013 – High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society

Articles

Video

Documentaries

RS Contributing Author: Holly Crawford

Holly is a lover of the written word. She enjoys using language to tell stories about people, products, and ideas. With her roots deeply entrenched in the cannabis industry, she gravitates towards all things psychedelic with open-minded curiosity. If she isn’t musing in one of her journals, you can find her talking to her plants, studying business and spirituality, and performing all kinds of kitchen witchery. Holly lives in Oregon with her husband and their three dogs and two cats. You can follow her on Instagram @m_sungreen.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Hart

https://www.columbiapsychiatry.org/profile/carl-hart-phd

https://psychology.columbia.edu/content/carl-hart

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Ketamine is becoming a promising treatment for various mental health conditions. Read to learn how individuals can use ketamine treatment for eating disorders.

Ketamine Resources, Studies, and Trusted Information
Curious to learn more about ketamine? This guide includes comprehensive ketamine resources containing books, studies and more.

Ketamine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to ketamine has everything you need to know about this “dissociative anesthetic” and how it is being studied for depression treatment.

Ketamine for Depression: A Mental Health Breakthrough
While antidepressants work for some, many others find no relief. Read to learn about the therapeutic uses of ketamine for depression.

Ketamine for Addiction: Treatments Offering Hope
New treatments are offering hope to individuals suffering from addiction diseases. Read to learn how ketamine for addiction is providing breakthrough results.

Microdosing Ketamine & Common Dosages Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing ketamine.

How to Ease a Ketamine Comedown
Knowing what to expect when you come down from ketamine can help integrate the experience to gain as much value as possible.

How to Store Ketamine: Best Practices
Learn the best ways how to store ketamine, including the proper temperature and conditions to maximize how long ketamine lasts when stored.

How To Buy Ketamine: Is There Legal Ketamine Online?
Learn exactly where it’s legal to buy ketamine, and if it’s possible to purchase legal ketamine on the internet.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?
How long does ketamine stay in your system? Are there lasting effects on your body? Read to discover the answers!

How Ketamine is Made: Everything You Need to Know
Ever wonder how to make Ketamine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how Ketamine is made.

Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs
Fallout continues after Elijah McClain. Despite opposing recommendations from some city council, Colorado State Health panel recommends the continued use of ketamine by medics for those demonstrating “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation”.

Types of Ketamine: Learn the Differences & Uses for Each
Learn about the different types of ketamine and what they are used for—and what type might be right for you. Read now to find out!

Kitty Flipping: When Ketamine and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Read to explore the mechanics of kitty flipping.

MDMA & Ecstasy Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to MDMA has everything you want to know about Ecstasy from how it was developed in 1912 to why it’s being studied today.

How To Get the Most out of Taking MDMA as a Couple
Taking MDMA as a couple can lead to exciting experiences. Read here to learn how to get the most of of this love drug in your relationship.

Common MDMA Dosage & Microdosing Explained
Microdosing, though imperceivable, is showing to have many health benefits–here is everything you want to know about microdosing MDMA.

Having Sex on MDMA: What You Need to Know
MDMA is known as the love drug… Read our guide to learn all about sex on MDMA and why it is beginning to makes its way into couple’s therapy.

How MDMA is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make MDMA? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how MDMA is made.

Hippie Flipping: When Shrooms and Molly Meet
What is it, what does it feel like, and how long does it last? Explore the mechanics of hippie flipping and how to safely experiment.

How Cocaine is Made: Common Procedures Explained
Ever wonder how to make cocaine? Read our guide to learn everything you need to know about the procedures of how cocaine is made.

A Christmas Sweater with Santa and Cocaine
This week, Walmart came under fire for a “Let it Snow” Christmas sweater depicting Santa with lines of cocaine. Columbia is not merry about it.

Ultimate Cocaine Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
This guide covers what you need to know about Cocaine, including common effects and uses, legality, safety precautions and top trends today.

NEWS: An FDA-Approved Cocaine Nasal Spray
The FDA approved a cocaine nasal spray called Numbrino, which has raised suspicions that the pharmaceutical company, Lannett Company Inc., paid off the FDA..

The Ultimate Guide to Cannabis Bioavailability
What is bioavailability and how can it affect the overall efficacy of a psychedelic substance? Read to learn more.

Cannabis Research Explains Sociability Behaviors
New research by Dr. Giovanni Marsicano shows social behavioral changes occur as a result of less energy available to the neurons. Read here to learn more.

The Cannabis Shaman
If recreational and medical use of marijuana is becoming accepted, can the spiritual use as well? Experiential journalist Rak Razam interviews Hamilton Souther, founder of the 420 Cannabis Shamanism movement…

Cannabis Guide: Effects, Common Uses, Safety
Our ultimate guide to Cannabis has everything you want to know about this popular substances that has psychedelic properties.

Cannabis and Ayahuasca: Mixing Entheogenic Plants
Cannabis and Ayahuasca: most people believe they shouldn’t be mixed. Read this personal experience peppered with thoughts from a procannabis Peruvian Shaman.

CBD-Rich Cannabis Versus Single-Molecule CBD
A ground-breaking study has documented the superior therapeutic properties of whole plant Cannabis extract as compared to synthetic cannabidiol (CBD), challenging the medical-industrial complex’s notion that “crude” botanical preparations are less effective than single-molecule compounds.

Cannabis Has Always Been a Medicine
Modern science has already confirmed the efficacy of cannabis for most uses described in the ancient medical texts, but prohibitionists still claim that medical cannabis is “just a ruse.”

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