+
More

He invited drug users into his lab. What he discovered is changing what we know about addiction.

He offers an incredibly refreshing take — because he works from experience that few other scientists have.

What were you taught about drugs?


GIF via Partnership for a Drug-Free America.


Remember hearing about how even just trying an addictive drug once would mean you were hooked for good?

GIF via The Meth Project.

Well that's what Columbia University professor Carl Hart learned in school too.

So imagine his surprise when his own research into drug addiction revealed something very, very different.

Working with others, Hart revisited some long-standing research on lab rats that showed that rats would self-administer drugs until death. He learned that rats that live in sterile cages with nothing else to do chose to take drugs until they effectively committed suicide. But those offered alternatives to drugs — like sweets or some hanky-panky — often chose the alternatives. In other words, the addictive behavior was caused by the environment, not some attribute of the drug itself.

Then Hart did something unusual. He invited human drug users into his lab. He set up an experiment where he offered regular meth users a choice between drugs or money.

When presented with an attractive alternative ($20), even people who regularly use a drug like meth still chose the alternative.

GIF by jgmarcelino/Flickr.

Clearly, we need to change how we think about what drugs do to our brains.

Most drug users are not addicts, Hart says. Not even close.

So, why do people keep taking drugs, even when side effects are so damaging?

It's how people end up with lives of crime and poverty, right? Wrong.

Hart grew up in Miami, in a neighborhood where he saw and experienced a lot of drug use and crime. He went to school in order to understand drug addiction and to try to stop the crisis of drugs driving people into a life of crime and poverty. But now he believes most users are not addicts; they are recreational users. He's also shown that if people have good alternatives to drugs, they will choose the alternatives most of the time. So the "cycle" of drugs, crime, and poverty isn't really a cycle.

Drugs are a symptom of a society where people don't feel they have good options, Hart theorizes. They aren't the cause.

"What I now know is that the drugs themselves are not the real problem. The real problems are: poverty, unemployment, selective drug law enforcement, ignorance, and the dismissal of science surrounding these drugs."Carl Hart

The real injustice here, Hart wants us to understand, is that even though most users are white, over 80% of people convicted of drug crimes are black. 1 in 3 black males can expect to spend time in prison. Whites? 1 in 20.

This issue is of paramount importance to Hart. He's personally invested as a scientist, but also as a father. Hart knows his two sons are especially vulnerable in a society where black people are targeted by police in the enforcement of drug laws and where drug policies severely punish even occasional users as if they were serious criminals.

This is the kind of thinking — and science — that U.S. drug policy really needs.

He shares lots more good ideas in this talk at TEDMED.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


Being married is like being half of a two-headed monster. It's impossible to avoid regular disagreements when you're bound to another person for the rest of your life. Even the perfect marriage (if there was such a thing) would have its daily frustrations. Funnily enough, most fights aren't caused by big decisions but the simple, day-to-day questions, such as "What do you want for dinner?"; "Are we free Friday night?"; and "What movie do you want to see?"

Here are some hilarious tweets that just about every married couple will understand.

Keep ReadingShow less
Democracy

A man told me gun laws would create more 'soft targets.' He summed up the whole problem.

As far as I know, there are only two places in the world where people living their lives are referred to as 'soft targets.'

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

Only in America are kids in classrooms referred to as "soft targets."

On the Fourth of July, a gunman opened fire at a parade in quaint Highland Park, Illinois, killing at least six people, injuring dozens and traumatizing (once again) an entire nation.

My family member who was at the parade was able to flee to safety, but the trauma of what she experienced will linger. For the toddler with the blood-soaked sock, carried to safety by a stranger after being pulled from under his father's bullet-torn body, life will never be the same.

There's a phrase I keep seeing in debates over gun violence, one that I can't seem to shake from my mind. After the Uvalde school shooting, I shared my thoughts on why arming teachers is a bad idea, and a gentleman responded with this brief comment:

"Way to create more soft targets."

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

She bought the perfect wedding dress that went viral on TikTok. It was only $3.75.

Lynch is part of a growing crowd of newlyweds going against the regular wedding tradition of spending loads of money.

Making a priceless memory.

At first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

Lynch posted her bargain hunt on TikTok, sharing that she had been perusing thrift shops in Ohio for four days in a row, with the actual ceremony being only a month away. Lynch then displays an elegant ivory-colored Camila Coelho dress. Fitting perfectly, still brand new and with the tags on it, no less.

You can find that exact same dress on Revolve for $220. Lynch bought it for only $3.75.
Keep ReadingShow less