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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.

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

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.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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