Rethinking Drug Addiction

A new book from Columbia neuroscientist Carl Hart reassesses the company line on drug addictions. It also rightly redirects our attention from viewing drugs as a cause of poverty and personal strife to viewing drugs as a symptom of an unstable environment, certain mental states, and bad luck. The American Conservative magazine reviews it here. Money quotes:

For most of the 1980s and 1990s, drugs were portrayed as the driving force behind high crime rates, lack of educational achievement, and urban decay. Government propaganda during that time period consistently portrayed drug users more or less as zombies held in thrall to an addictive substance, against which they were powerless.

And:

Hart does not peddle any panaceas. His biography and research show drug abuse and the other social problems associated with it to be complex phenomena that will not be remedied or even ameliorated by simplistic solutions. However, Hart has at least demonstrated how we can begin to understand and substantively address those problems, instead of naively scapegoating certain politically convenient chemicals for all of society’s ills.

More nuance is needed on this subject, but after decades of fruitless policies, we’ve come a long way in a short time.

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