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Sep 212013

Dr. Carl Hart is a black man raised on the mean streets flowing with crack and meth, yet he became a respected neuroscientist who now conducts research on addicts, and his fact-based studies are turning the common thinking about how addicts will do “anything” to get their drugs of choice upside down.

Here’s an article from the Huffington Post about his work that is very enlightening.

Addicts more often than not chose the $5 reward rather than small doses of crack, although, when the dose was larger, they tended to choose crack over cash. But when the reward was $20, addicts chose the money every time. Similar results were found in Hart’s study of methamphetamine addicts. These findings are mentioned in Hart’s book High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. In a previous interview with The Huffington Post, Hart said there are multiple interest groups with incentives to keep the media and law enforcement-perpetuated image of the out-of-control addict alive. Police departments across the country, for example, count on the public’s fear of drugs for funding, according to Hart. “They perpetuate these myths because it increases their budgets,” Hart told HuffPost. “We spend $26 billion a year on the drug war. Law enforcement and prisons get a large amount of money to continue to perpetuate this stuff.”

While I realize that genetics plays a part in addictions, and that drugs and alcohol alter the brains of those who use them, I do not subscribe to the idea, and never have, that an addict is without options. Having grown up in a family with several violent alcoholics who wrecked their own lives and the lives of those around them, I also came to believe that they had the option of drinking or not, but chose to drink. Their genes did not put a bottle in their hands and force it into their mouths.

Having worked with many people professionally who had addictions as well as sometimes other issues, I still did not subscribe to the official line of medicine that alcoholism and addiction is a “sickness” and that those people who are addicted are “helpless.” Even addicts have choices and they can choose what they want…the drug and the consequences that go with drug use, or they can choose to stop drinking or drugging.

True, the genetic make up of some individuals makes them more prone to use crack or alcohol than I am, my drug of choice for years was nicotine. I came up with multiple excuses for not stopping smoking, even as a health care professional who knew first hand the dangers of smoking, yet I continued to smoke. Finally I made up my mind to quit and I did. But I quit only when I finally decided to be logical and take charge of my own health, rather than feed my addiction. I still from time to time crave a cigarette, but I will not allow myself to have even one.

It  isn’t worth the consequences to my health, which has already been damaged more than enough by the years I did smoke. Too many times I have seen my friends’ children succumb to drugs and alcohol, and the parents convince themselves that if they could just get them off drugs they would quit breaking the law and going to jail. Unfortunately too many of these adult children lack a moral compass, and the drugs are not the problem, but a personality disorder is.

In AA the common term for these people is “dry drunks”–they were horse’s behinds when they were drunk, and now that they are sober but still horse’s butts and treat others poorly. As Dr. Hart points out though, the “justice system” depends on the “war on drugs” for financing the huge infrastructure of police and prisons. The money would be I think better spent in realizing that even addicts have choices and that even with the best of rehabilitation programs less than 40% of offenders stay off drugs for very long.

Holding someone accountable for their behavior, drunk or sober, or high or down to earth I think is a much more rational choice on society’s part. Dr. Hart’s book is found on Amazon at the following link. If anyone in your family has a drug or alcohol problem, I would suggest that you purchase and read this book.

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  2 Responses to “A newer way of looking at addictions Dr. Carl Hart's research

  1. Joyce, this is a fascinating article and I agree that the majority of addictions come down to choices.

    I also agree with the belief that certain entities WANT to keep the flames fanned on the “War On Drugs.” This is a raging debate among many – we MUST save the public from themselves, and I disagree with this atrocious waste of time, resources, and lives. Yet, many substances are illegal, and with that life come the consequences of breaking the Law.

    I also feel that children are introduced to concepts and terminology that they are NOT prepared (or, mature enough) to process. These children return home after a D.A.R.E. program and see a parent having a beer or glass of wine and begin questioning their parent about being an addict.

    The “War On Anything,” be it drugs or obesity, is a huge economic drain. Once the gubmint calls it a “war,” all bets are off and the responsibility of each individual to take control of their own choices and decisions is neatly removed. Addicts are thrust into the role of “victim,” through “no fault of their own.” UGH!!!

    EXCELLENT article, Joyce!

  2. Yea, Truthy, there are so many DOLLARS involved in this….money for police departments to build them up, and money for rehabilitation folks who get their living from “rehabing” these folks, Money for courts and lawyers and so on…it is all about MONEY and if drugs were decriminilized then all these folks would be out of a job. DUH???

    Prohibition of alcohol didn’t work, and prohibition of drugs isn’t working except for fueling the gangs and the cops in this “war” where the public loses…legalizing and controlling I think is a better option and would be cheaper in many ways….if an addict didn’t have to rob your house to get money for his drugs (at a higher price than legal ones would be) then robberies would go down…murders would go down, numbers in prison would go down, but I don’t see that happening any time soon, even with the research Dr. Hart is doing. But his research is a START and I hope that others in his field will get on the band wagon and do more research.

    The research on the human genome and psychopathy and ADHD and other mental problems and conditions is finally making great progress and it too started with a few people making new roads in that direction. Now there is a freeway transporting knowledge at high speeds. The new test that has been approved by the FDA for ADHD is only one of the latest improvements.

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