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Watch > Episode > Dr Carl Hart - Debunking Drug Myths

Dr Carl Hart - Debunking Drug Myths


You’re being lied to.

It’s often as simple as that. For almost a century now the UK and, more zealously, the United States have waged a war on drugs.

The cost? Hundreds of billions in taxpayer money and countless lives wasted and families’ social mobility hurt by criminal convictions. Governments have a lot invested in the line that drugs are bad, horror stories fill the newspapers and substances get the blame for all kinds of social illness. As far as the White House and Westminster are concerned, the debate is settled.

Of course, the real world is not so black and white. The only enemy to progressive conversation is disinformation and misinformation.

The War on Drugs, like any war, has been a dirty conflict of myth casting and scaremongering. In the past, the public could be forgiven for having been sold lies and propaganda, but the relentless and roaring digital modernity we live in won’t tolerate it one bit. The thirst to conform our legal system to something less archaic is real.

This episode’s guest, Dr. Carl Hart, grew up in a poverty stricken neighbourhood in Miami. An abuser and seller of drugs he would keep a handgun in his car for protection. He, like many, was convinced drugs and addiction were the cause of his neighbourhood’s problems. After joining the military then studying neuroscience, that all changed. Under real scientific scrutiny the drug myths spun to him his whole life collapsed.

Now an Ivy League university professor, TED fellow, author and multiple prize winner in his field, Carl, like the great Neil DeGrasse Tyson, promotes education to dispel the misinformation that has fogged public judgement for so long.

The problem doesn’t seem to be the drugs but how we handle them. Leave your opinion at the door for this one, regardless of which side or trench you usually find yourself, and let’s talk real science with Dr. Carl Hart.

Dr. Carl Hart earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Maryland in 1987 and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Wyoming in 1996. He later conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, San Francisco, before joining the faculty at Columbia University in New York.As a professor of neuroscience and psychology, Dr. Hart has dedicated his career to studying the effects of psychoactive substances on the brain and behaviour. His research has particularly focused on the neuropharmacological and behavioural effects of drugs such as methamphetamine and MDMA (ecstasy).

One of Dr. Hart’s notable contributions to the field is his groundbreaking research challenging prevailing assumptions about drug addiction. His studies have emphasised the contextual factors surrounding drug use and addiction, highlighting that socio-economic conditions, environment, and personal circumstances play crucial roles.

In his work, Dr. Hart conducted controlled experiments where participants were offered a choice between monetary rewards and doses of drugs like cocaine. Contrary to common beliefs, many participants chose monetary rewards over drug doses, challenging the notion that drug addiction is solely driven by pharmacological effects.

Beyond his scientific contributions, Dr. Carl Hart is a vocal advocate for drug policy reform. He argues that drug policies should be based on scientific evidence rather than moralistic or punitive approaches. Dr. Hart believes in the decriminalisation of drug use and the implementation of harm reduction strategies to address issues related to drug abuse.

In his book “High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society” (2013), Dr. Hart shares his personal and professional experiences, shedding light on the complexities of drug use and the societal factors that contribute to drug-related issues.

Dr. Carl Hart is actively engaged in public discourse, contributing to discussions about drug policy, addiction, and neuroscience. He has spoken at various conferences, universities, and events, challenging audiences to reconsider their perspectives on drug use. Dr. Hart’s TED Talk, “Let’s Quit Abusing Drug Users,” is an example of his efforts to promote informed and compassionate approaches to drug-related issues.

Dr. Hart’s views, especially his stance on the responsible use of drugs and the need for policy reform, have sparked controversy and criticism. Some argue that his positions may be perceived as promoting drug use, while others commend his courage in challenging deeply ingrained societal beliefs.

Dr. Carl Hart’s work in neuropsychopharmacology, along with his advocacy for evidence-based drug policies, has had a profound impact on the fields of neuroscience and drug research. By challenging traditional views on addiction and advocating for a more compassionate and scientifically informed approach to drug use, Dr. Hart continues to contribute to reshaping societal attitudes and policies surrounding psychoactive substances.


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