05/11/22 Doctor Carl Hart

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Carl Hart
Columbia University

DTN GODAMARAMA EDITORIAL !!!! Doctor Carl Hart is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University. Dr. Hart joins us for the half hour to discuss his newest book: Drug Use for Grown Ups - Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. Hart is known for his research in drug abuse and drug addiction. Hart was the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University.

Audio file

01/20/21 Dr. Carl Hart

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Carl Hart
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Carl Hart is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University. Dr. Hart joins us for the half hour to discuss his newest book: Drug Use for Grown Ups - Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. Hart is known for his research in drug abuse and drug addiction. Hart was the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University.

Audio file

DEAN BECKER (00:04):
[Inaudible] broadcasting on the drug truth and network. This is cultural baggage. [inaudible]. My name is Dean Becker. I don't condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical banking to prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war. Hi friends. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend most high. I want to welcome you to this edition of cultural baggage. I think a very special edition. Wait until you hear the guests, the content thereof and the the knowledge that's being shared, not the hail,

DEAN BECKER (00:55):
Just get right to it with us. First interviewed him back in 2013 about his first book, high price. But today we have with us from Columbia university there in New York city, professor Dr. Carl Hart. How you doing Carl?

DR. CARL HART (01:13):
Good to see you, Dean man.

DEAN BECKER (01:14):
Well, good to see you. It's I don't know, these last seven years since we interviewed there on that front porch, I think it was somewhere in Brooklyn. If I recall.

DR. CARL HART (01:25):
Memory is really good. You're right.

DEAN BECKER (01:27):
A lot of, a lot of changes happened, but a lot of changes still lacking as well. Am I right?

DR. CARL HART (01:36):
Yeah, there is. You're absolutely. You hit that on the head. At that time, I believe when we talked I don't even know if yeah, marijuana had been legalized in Colorado and Washington, but it hadn't taken effect in either state yet. I don't think,

DEAN BECKER (01:53):
I think you're right, Carl. Now this new book of yours I've got the copyright here. I want to hold it up for the viewers. It is drug use for grownups chasing Liberty in the land of fear. And there's a lot of truth in those, a few words there as well, fear runs the drug war. Does it not

DR. CARL HART (02:15):
That's right for your a, is a big component of the drug war, but a hatred of specific groups is another component of it. And probably the biggest proponent component of it is economic the money.

DEAN BECKER (02:31):
Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, well, and, and that has gone on over the decades, the, the century of this drug war, it goes from drug to drug from worry to worried from fear to fear, but it's always a, a means to control and subjugate certain people in it.

DR. CARL HART (02:52):
Yeah, that's a, that's one goal of the drug war. But you know, today there's the LAR a large, there's a large component that deals with the money and that we can't forget about that, particularly as we are experiencing this global pandemic, a lot of people lost their jobs which is horrible. And one way that we have kind of provided relief for people is to offer them positions in the war on drugs. And so it helps them to support their families. And so we can't forget about that component because it's important that people get jobs and are employed and that, you know, they, they feel like they are human. That's really important, but the problem with employing them in the war on drugs is that people are paid as a result of other people's suffering or their pay is dependent upon other people's suffering, which is that's the problem it's wrong.

DEAN BECKER (04:05):
Sure. No, I agree. There are millions of marijuana smokers out there. Many of them working for legalizing weed, their favorite drug, but they're the very same people who know much of what you and I know, and that is that this drug war is wrong in every aspect and in regards to every drug. And I, my hope, my wish hell my goal and ambition is to motivate those marijuana smokers to be a little more bold, to speak a little more openly and honestly about their drug use because many of them have done those same drugs you and I have done. Right?

DR. CARL HART (04:39):
Yeah, no, that's a great point. The thing that I hope the book does is it forces people to look or ask the question, particularly people that you're talking about, like the marijuana users they know that they've been lied to about marijuana for so long and they know it and that's why they are active in terms of marijuana or they are activists to change marijuana laws. If you've been lied to, if you've been lied to about marijuana, I hope they ask. Then is it possible that you've been lied to about cocaine, about heroin, about these other things? And I submit to you if they really think about it, honestly and openly, they will answer that question. Not what a yes, but a hell. Yes. Because the pattern of Villa vilified marijuana is the same as that as vilifying cocaine, the same as that as vilifying heroin or some other drugs, the same is true with amphetamine.

DR. CARL HART (05:54):
So it was it's not necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you have to get things done. When you think about going to concerts and all the rest of these things, where a band comes into town and they are on a tour and you paid your money for this night and they played last night, the night before that, and you actually want them on amphetamine. So they could be up to perform for you to the standard that you think that they should be at. And they typically, they probably are on some stimulant and this is a sort of common sort of thing. It's not really an issue. But of course there are people who can get in trouble with unfettered means a Winnie other drug. And that's, that's where in the book, I try to explain that the majority of people don't get in trouble with these drugs only a small minority does and this minority has received all of the attention and that's the problem.

DR. CARL HART (06:57):
Because then we think that, Oh, this drug's effect is only this. And it causes these problems. And that's where our challenges conversation about drugs has focused primarily. And I'm asking people to have a more grownup conversation, you know, it's like you how do you live in a world where these things exist and you just coexist and you make sure it's as as safe as possible. Just like we do with driving automobiles, that's a really potentially dangerous activity every year, 40,000 Americans lose their life in car accidents every year. Well, we're not talking about banning cars because of that. Whereas with drugs, we get crazy about that. In large part, because there is money in banning drugs for a select group of people in our society. And then it also allows them to subjugate certain groups of people in our society. And so that's, I think that's the real sort of function of the war on drugs. It's not to control, like it's not to say like to ban or reiterate society of drugs because that's never going to happen. It's really to subjugate a certain group of people and to make sure another select group of people have a steady income flow.

DEAN BECKER (08:23):
Sure. It occurs to me that within your book, you talk more about that, that it is quite often they say it's Oxycontin, but it was alcohol and Oxycontin, or it was another pill and Oxycontin, or it was a combination of a lethal combination of drugs that, that leads to these deaths. Right?

DR. CARL HART (08:43):
That's right. The majority of these debts, when you look at what's in the deceases body, what you find is that multiple drugs were in the system. And what we know is when you combine something like opioids and another sedative, particularly certain set of the dips like alcohol, the older bins of dad's opinions, like pro methazine, you really increase the likelihood of respiratory, depression and death. And so given that that's the case, it would really be helpful if our public service announcements stop focusing on a particular drug and actually focus on specific drug combination. So like when people say don't use heroin and cocaine, or just any drug company, that's not the smartest educational approach because people who use opioids know that when they use a stimulant long with the opioid, it probably decreases the likelihood of respiratory depression. And it's a nice combination for some. And so you want to focus on what are the more problematic sort of combinations and not just on combinations in general,

DEAN BECKER (09:56):
Carl w we have the situation where, and, and you, you touched upon it in your book about, I don't know, the ancillary, the, the I don't know, the urine testers, the treatment providers, the, the folks that in many cases, prey upon this situation.

DR. CARL HART (10:13):
Yeah. You know, we know that law enforcement benefits, we know that everyone knows that we've seen all of the books. Everybody writes about that. That's not as interesting. We know that a lot of money goes to law enforcement, but what we talk about less is how science has benefit from the war on drugs, how people who run urine testing, sort of businesses benefit how politicians benefit, how parents benefit, how all these sort of constituents are invested in the war on drugs. And so when we start to look at their sort of role, it becomes a lot more interesting and also a lot more diabolical in my mind, it's that the war on drugs is dependent upon people going to jail, being locked up. And the people who were primarily being locked up, our black and Brown bodies, and the people who are primarily being hired are white folks in this war on drugs.

DR. CARL HART (11:17):
And so you can see how this causes increases the tension between groups all of these sorts of problems and politicians exploit this. And that's what, so the war on drugs is ideal. It's a politician wet dream because you can see results within a two to four year term. We know that most people are dying because of drug specific drug combinations. And we know that people, most people are died because of a large number of people died because of drug you want to solve the contaminated drug problem. Oh, you have to do is implemate implement drug testing services, where people can submit small samples of their drug and get a chemical readout of it. And also an explanation of what these compounds are. That's contained in their substance. Now they can be informed of whether to take the drug or not. And that would deal with that would substantially reduce any of this sort of overdose concern that people have. So we know that we've always known that, but the war on drugs is just too important for jobs and the economy. That's why we do the war on drugs.

DEAN BECKER (12:39):
Tell us about your experience over there in Switzerland, working with the injection facilities who came in, what was it like, how it wasn't a typical day?

DR. CARL HART (12:48):
Yeah. Back in 2015, I took a sabbatical leave and I went to Switzerland. I won a fellowship from the Swiss foundation called the brochure foundation. And it allowed me to work in a heroine clinic for some time. Ha this heroin clinic is a clinic in which people who are, who meet criteria for heroin use disorder, or are addicted to heroin received heroin as part of their treatment twice a day, every day people would come in and receive intravenous injections primarily. And what I learned from that experiences is that everything that I thought about heroin was wrong. I thought that people who were addicted to heroin would be irresponsible. These people were some of the most responsible people I had met. They were required to come to the clinic, to the clinic every morning at seven o'clock in the seven o'clock hour.

DR. CARL HART (13:55):
And also every evening in the five o'clock hour, these folks were on time. They were on time, like a Swiss watch. They were precise. They were happy. Many of the folks were employed and it helped that all of them had a social worker, a psychiatrist, a psychologist an internist a nurse. They had this treatment team that looked back at him for any other conditions they would have, whether it's psychiatric, whether it's physical. And so I learned that, Oh, you know, heroin addiction can be treated successfully such that the folks who were afflicted with it could become, again, productive members of the society could be happy. As long you provide it, the appropriate treatment, and this was the appropriate treatment for a number of these salts

DEAN BECKER (14:58):
Break, right back with Dr. Carl Hart, author of drug use for grown-up
Speaker 4 (15:04):
It's time to play name that drop by its side effects. A 2009 study recommended treating heroin addicts with diacetyl morphine, the active ingredient in this time's up the answer on the reason, the addition of jeopardy, Aaron, what is heroin? Yeah.

DEAN BECKER (15:23):
Now I was lucky enough that a couple of years back I went to burn. I got to meet with Dr. Kristoff Burkey, who was one of the pioneers of their Swiss injection and process. And got to tour one of the facilities and, and saw a much the same as you're talking about. I didn't get to see any injections. They didn't allow me into that area, but, but it, it showed that, you know, and Oh, Dr. Burkey told me, I think they just passed 20 million injections and they have had zero. As you say, in your book, overdose deaths, it shows the fallacy, the, the horrid lies that we tell in this country. Right?

DR. CARL HART (16:04):
Yeah. That's a great point because like the average dose that the participants were in, or these patients were on when I was there was about a gram a day. So that's a thousand milligrams of heroin a day, which is for a naive person, heroin, naive person, that's enough heroin to knock you out, really knock you out. And so it really goes to show how heroin's effects are predictable. So as you have developed tolerance, a thousand milligrams a day is not a big deal. And many of these people for example, were also drinking alcohol when they do heroin at some point, like in the evenings or what have you and they were fine. But it, it speaks to this issue of when you have a known dose and you have pharmaceutical grade heroin, it helps to decrease the sort of unpredictability and danger of, of, of, of, of this substance as well as other substances.

DR. CARL HART (17:14):
And, and, and this country, we have it we've ignored that 20 plus year of experience that the Swiss have with heroin maintenance clinics. Other countries have also done this. Now the Netherlands, even the UK are doing this, it's doing this Denmark. Now a number of other countries are also that also have these heroin maintenance clinics and they are happy with it because what they've seen was that this group of heroin patients heroin addicted patients who didn't respond to other treatments, respond to this treatment and they they see decreases in blood borne illnesses decreases in any criminal analogy, criminal analogy, criminal, Allity sorry. And so it's an effective useful treatment.

DEAN BECKER (18:13):
All right, folks, once again, we're speaking with Dr. Carl Hart, author of drug use for grownups chasing Liberty in the land of fear. Carl we're about out of time here, and it's time to get to the, I don't know, there may be the touchiest subject in your book, your use of heroin. Let's talk about that.

DR. CARL HART (18:34):
Why is that touch? Why is that touchy

DEAN BECKER (18:36):
The two most folks. Okay. I I've done it in the past. It just wasn't for me, but I'm just saying to the average listener or whatever,

DR. CARL HART (18:46):
Why I don't understand why that's touching a heroin.

DEAN BECKER (18:50):
Okay. I don't know if it goes against all of the movies and TV and other BS that's been fed to us over the decades. I'll put it that way.

DR. CARL HART (18:59):
Sure. it's important for listeners to understand that heroin is a psychoactive chemical compound, just like alcoholics in many respects. Alcohol can be more dangerous than heroin. For example, somebody who is a chronic alcohol user alcohol every day for several months, years, or what have you. And then they abruptly discontinue their alcohol use. They run the risk of having a seizure and die during alcohol withdrawal. Whereas with heroin withdrawal, the opioid withdrawal, the risk of dying is so low that it's it's, it's, it's it's it's not really a possibility is so low. So in that respect alcohol, that's a lot more dangerous than heroin. And yeah, heroin my heroin, I taught this book. I come out of the closet about my old drug use and heroin is just one of the many substances that I use and I report using but I also report that I make sure that my substances are tested and so I know what they contain that if it's, if I think I have heroin, I actually have heroin.

DR. CARL HART (20:20):
Because that's because I have access in places outside of the United States where you can have this testing. So yeah, it's it's one of these, my drug use is one of these things that has actually improved my quality of life. And I've never have been, never met criteria for any drug, whether it's heroin or whether something else. My drug use does not disrupt any of my important functioning like work family obligations or other obligations. And you know it's a, it's a beneficial thing just like caffeine used in the morning for some people it's beneficial, just like alcohol use at some functions is useful for some people because it's a social lubricant, the same is true with heroin. And then as I write in the book, which is important, I wish people read it. They can see how they've been lied to about heroin and other drugs. And that's why if they have that view that heroin is so horrible they do so because they've been manipulated by the press by artists like filmmakers songwriters, a number of people have played into this nonsense. And this is not to encourage people to do heroin. That's not, it, this is doing encourage people to actually grapple with the information, think and make your own decisions. That's what responsible adults do.

DEAN BECKER (22:05):
Sure. No what's not given the respect. It deserves one of the founders of Johns Hopkins way back, when was Dr. William Halston. And he was said to be a lifelong morphine user. And I often wonder, would you want him to do his morphine before or after he starts cutting you open? And I would think I'd want him to get his dose beforehand, just so he wouldn't, I don't know your thought there.

DR. CARL HART (22:35):
Just think about people who do alcohol. I mean, they don't typically do alcohol before doing their important work or, you know, they may do it after to relax and chill. The same is true with morphine. The same is with heroin. The same is true with any of these drugs and a house that also was an avid cocaine user. And he was one of these people who was investigating the local anesthetic effects of cocaine. So yeah a number of people throughout American history were also morphine users. And we think about McCarthy, the sort of communist guy, the big morphine guy J Edgar Hoover, a number of people use the morphine and, and, and in the United States. And they used it for its pleasurable effect. We think about the guy who wrote our declaration of independence, probably our most important document Thomas Jefferson, a big opioid user enjoyed opioids. So particularly as he got older, because he was in pain from illnesses and opioids allowed him to like ride his horse around his, a large amount of land. So he could see the beauty of what he had got from taking advantage of people like my ancestors enslaved from him.

DEAN BECKER (24:09):
Yeah, no, that's a very good point there, Carl. Well, coming back to, I don't know what has been compelling me for about the last year is claiming the moral high ground, which is exactly what you're doing, that, that we own. It, there's no one ever going to refute the idea that let's destroy. The cartels let's stop. Most of the overdose deaths, let's just find a better way. And it just seems like it'd be a winner for any politician to just say, Hey, this drug war ain't working, what's it going to take to break the back of their logic? How what's it really going to entail?

DR. CARL HART (24:45):
Well, the drug war is working. That's what we have to say. It's working for the politicians. Otherwise the politician wouldn't continue this. So it's working very well for the politician. It works very well for parents. It works very well for police. It works very well for physicians. It works very well for scientists. It's working for a number of folks, a select group of people. But for the vast majority of Americans, if they really look at it, they see that we're getting screwed, but in short rule runs, certain people are benefiting. That's why, and there are powerful people in their intent. They have an intense lobby. So we have to first recognize that that is working. And then we have to recognize that it is inconsistent with the founding promise of the country. And the founding promise of the country is that each of us are in Dow with these at least three rights life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

DR. CARL HART (25:52):
So opera in America that has become this sort of empty shingle with sticks statement, but it's not, it's profound because the founding fathers, the, the fact that they were all flawed, like we all are putting that aside for a second. The founding fathers, they had, they, this was, they had such a profound sort of this sort of thinking was profound and noble. And it gave us this foundation that said that each of us can live our life as we soft fit, as long as we did prevent other people from doing the same. Yeah, that's profound, but Americans act like it's just jingle stick statement, some patriotic nonsense, but it's not. I mean, there's a reason that they made us remember the speech from Patrick hen Henry, when he said, give me Liberty or give me death. That is like, I want to live my life.

DR. CARL HART (26:59):
Like I see fit. I'm not bothering anyone. So why should not? Why shouldn't you tell me how I should live or what I can put in my body when I'm not bothering anyone? And I am an adult it's profound. And so the war on drugs, it's inconsistent with that founding principle, those novel ideas, ideals it's inconsistent. And so with the book, I'm trying to, I'm trying to show people that the promise life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness is inconsistent with the practice of locking people up for doing that. That is just that doesn't jive. And so the book is really interrogating. That's the fundamental question or issue that the book is interrogating. It's like, how did we get here? And why do we accept this? When we have been guaranteed these rights? I mean, the declaration of independence says like in the third sentence, governments should be created to secure those rights. And when governments fail to do that, we dissolve governments. It's remarkable to me that more people up are up in arms because of the time

DEAN BECKER (28:19):
It was up. We got to wrap it up. Please get a copy of Carl Hart's new book drug use for grown-ups. And once again, I remind you that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful to the drunk truth network listeners around the world. This is Dean Becker for cultural baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural baggage is a production of the Pacifica radio network. Archives are permanently stored at the James aid Baker, the bird Institute for public policy. And we are all still tapped on the edge abyss.

04/08/20 Carl Hart

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Carl Hart
Law Enforcement Action Partnership

Dr. Carl Hart author of High Price - A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self Discover That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs & Socieity + Terry Nelson of LEAP & DTN Editorial

Audio file


DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.


DEAN BECKER: My name is Dean Becker. You are listening to the Cultural Baggage on the Drug Truth Network and Pacifica Radio. I thank you for joining us. We do have online our guests for this evening. He is a scientist. He has written a great new book called, “High Price - A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs & Society.”

I had the honor of doing an interview with him about a month ago up in Brooklyn. I want to welcome Dr. Carl Hart.

CARL HART: Thank you for having me.

DEAN BECKER: I want to first commend you, praise you for this book. It tells a great story of a life here in America and the life of the drug war. Kudos, my friend.

CARL HART: Thank you.

DEAN BECKER: The beginning of the book kind of tells the story of a young man growing up in many ways…in fact growing away from his environment, his family and friends because of the life changes you made. Is that a fair thought?

CARL HART: Yes that certainly is. It’s a coming of age story and being a black person coming of age in the state sometimes means being caught between two worlds. I hope I did a good job of explaining that.

DEAN BECKER: You did. In some ways my transition from youth to adult was almost the antithesis of yours. I went from a middle class background kind of reaching towards working class status if you follow me. But this was the 60s – a time of rebellion so to speak, right?

CARL HART: Yes, that’s right.

DEAN BECKER: Your’s was a couple decades later I guess…your transition, your advance into the Air Force, your embrace of education, right?

CARL HART: That’s right.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about the progress, the education that you have received.

CARL HART: As you noted in the book I talk about having a scanty education or poor education in high school – barely literate, quite frankly. The only reason I stayed in school was to remain on the basketball team and really didn’t see the value of an education.

Then I went into the Air Force and learned some things that I didn’t know – some things that I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. Then I found out the importance of an education, the value, the power of education. I committed myself to education just like I had previously to athletics.

In doing so it meant that some of the people, some of the things I was once in to I was no longer in to and sometimes people may feel slighted when, in fact, it’s not really about them it’s about me. Those were difficult waters to navigate.

DEAN BECKER: I’m sure. We all run into those kind of familial situations. Now the focus of the book deals with the drug war interweaving itself into life here in America, right?

CARL HART: Yes. It is a difficult book for some people to wrap their heads around because it’s a memoir but it’s also a big ideas book. It’s also a science book. It’s also a policy book – policy being drug policy.

All of those things are who I am and they make up me. I thought that the only way for me to tell my story was to talk about science, growing up in the ‘hood, to talk about my disgust with the current drug policy particular as one tries to wrap their head around the science and how inconsistent what we are currently doing with drug policy is with the science.

DEAN BECKER: You’ve done the investigation on people using methamphetamine and I want to speak on that because I had about a 2 and one-half year dalliance with methamphetamine myself. It started with the Air Force by the way who handed it out like candy in the beginning and it became “methamphetamine or life” and I chose life because too many people get caught up in chasing down those drugs and finding the drugs and spending their lives chasing drugs. I think that’s the biggest failing, if you will, of methamphetamine users.

CARL HART: One of the things I try to do in the book is point out that most of the people who use methamphetamine don’t have that type of relationship with the drug. There are, of course, people who do have that relationship but the problem for me is most of attention is focused on people who have trouble with the drug – people who have a pathological relationship with the drug when, in fact, the majority of the people don’t.

The folks who have a problem with the drug we certainly want to pay attention to that, certainly want to make sure that we help them to the best of our ability but we certainly shouldn’t be making policy based on a select group who have a problem with the drug when the majority of the people don’t.

Now that is not to say that methamphetamine does not have the potential for harmful effects to those individuals who use it but if we think about another drug that we are all familiar with – let’s say alcohol. There is 10 to 15% of the people who use alcohol who have a pathological relationship with that drug but you don’t see the society making laws based on that 10 to 15%. We tried to do that in 1919 with prohibition and until 1933 but the other 90 / 85% was like, “Hey, I don’t have a problem with this drug. I know how to use it and I’m fine. I know how to enhance the positive effects and minimize the negative effects. Why should I be punished because of that?”

In the book I’m trying to get the public to realize that’s what we have done with cocaine. That’s what we have done with methamphetamine. That’s what we have done with heroin.

It doesn’t mean that we can all of the sudden change the way we are regulating those drugs today. It means we need to change the way that we are educating about these drugs and then think about changing the way we regulate these drugs.

I put forth that we should decriminalize all these drugs first and then have the sort of corresponding increase in education and then if people want to think about legalizing all of these drugs that’s fine. But first we have to be re-educated because currently we’re talking to the country about drugs like the whole entire country are adolescents. I’m trying to have an adult discussion about drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Dr. Carl Hart. He’s author of, “High Price - A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs & Society.”

That word there “know” – so many people think they know this truth and they stand adamantly opposed to any changes but there is much they “know” that just ain’t true right, Carl?

CARL HART: That’s absolutely right. We just have been miseducated, misinformed about what drugs do. I guess some of the most detrimental education surrounding drugs has been doled out by law enforcement and people turn to law enforcement, for example, for educating people about drugs. That’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard.

What we have to do is make sure anybody (whether it’s law enforcement, or somebody like me, a scientist) we have to make sure that whatever they are talking about as it relates to drugs has foundations in real evidence. Ask people the question, “What’s the evidence to support your position?”

If people say, “Well, my Uncle Jack told me…” That’s not evidence – that’s anecdote. Anecdote, often times, are not even representative of the real situation. So anecdote might be fine to illustrate a point but please make sure that it is grounded in evidence. What’s the evidence to support that anecdote.

DEAN BECKER: It occurs to me as we’re talking about anecdotal evidence and the fact of the matter is is that not just too often but all the time the takes the words of cops and people in the criminal justice system and uses their words as evidence to continue this policy even though these people have absolutely no medical background.

CARL HART: In chapter 17 of the book I really deal with that issue because it has disturbed me as well precisely how you pointed out. Law enforcement officials don’t have any training in pharmacology. They don’t have any training in the behavioral sciences.

They are trained very well to deal with people who are criminals. Now when you’re dealing with people who are criminals…people can act bizarre in the presence of law enforcement simply because they are afraid because they’ve done something wrong and you can get a lot of bizarre behaviors.

Oftentimes that bizarre behavior is attributed to a drug when, in fact, there’s no drug on board – or there is a drug on board like alcohol. It may be that the person has some sort of psychiatric issue but drugs are typically scapegoated in those situations long before we even know if drugs are involved or if drugs aren’t involved we still say that drugs were involved.

That has gone a long way for perpetuating myths about drugs.

DEAN BECKER: There is a very current situation that kind of touches on what you are talking about. Alcohol being a contributor with other drugs – it complicates it. A recent story…a crane operator in New York (I think it was) is accused of manslaughter because he was high on marijuana and codeine.

Now the codeine was mentioned in the earlier stories but it’s being focused on marijuana now. I guess the point I’m trying to make here, sir, is whether it’s marijuana, codeine or whatever it’s blaming the drugs rather than waiting for an investigation.

CARL HART: You just described it beautifully. I don’t know the contributions of codeine. I don’t know the contribution of marijuana. I don’t know the contributions of this person’s psychiatric history. It would be nice if we could tease apart those things and figure it out before we disseminate information that’s not complete but certainly we do that too often in this society.

That’s one of the things in the book. I’m trying to ask people to be more careful, more critical because it’s not something that’s neutral when we perpetuate these myths about drugs. If it was neutral then it wouldn’t be a big deal but the perpetuation of these myths about drugs have extremely negative effects on our citizens – particularly our poor, minority citizens because it creates an environment in which the society goes after certain types of drugs (marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine) all of these drugs with such zeal. They go after these drugs at any cost to those in the communities and those communities pay the price.

They pay the price with increased arrest, increased prison sentences and also increased death. If we think about Trevon Martin, if we think about a number of folks …what the person who killed Trevon Martin thought was that he was on some drug. That’s the excuse that they’ve given. This excuse has been given often times when drugs weren’t even involved.

As long as society or people in authority are allowed to believe that drugs somehow create these monstrous effects we are going to get this excessive force from law enforcement and security officers and that’s why I am so concerned about the myths that we have perpetuated about drugs.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Dr. Carl Hart. He’s author of, “High Price - A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs & Society.”

I wanted to come back to the mention of alcohol. I mentioned that it complicates, expounds the problem with the use of other drugs. Let’s talk about that for a moment.

CARL HART: One of the things I try to be careful about doing in the book is I don’t want to vilify one drug for another. Alcohol, for example, we know that there are lots of crime and those sorts of things that may be associated with alcohol and things that concern us as a society.

I don’t want people to get the idea that I think alcohol use should be restricted. I think that the vast majority of people who use alcohol do so safely without problems and responsibly so I don’t want to restrict alcohol but I do want people to understand that no matter what the activity is in society – whether it is drinking alcohol, using cocaine or driving your automobile – whatever it is there is the potential for danger so we cannot be so naïve to think that we’re going to prevent every accident, every sort of tragedy. That’s naïve.

Any public policy that is based on that is not realistic and it will be wasteful. Yeah, there are problems related to alcohol but those problems are actually minimal or minor or relatively low compared to the vast numbers of people who use that drug.

The same can be said for cocaine. The same can be said for other drugs if we enhance our education surrounding their use. We know a great deal about methamphetamine’s effects that we could tell people who are using these drugs to keep them safe. We know a great deal about heroin’s effect which could keep people more safe but often times the public health message is something is that, “Heroin caused this overdose and killed this person.”

You know, while heroin overdoses are possible they are highly unlikely and they are rare. 75 or more percent of the people who die from a heroin-related death die because of the use of heroin in combination with another sedative like alcohol.

So the public health message should be screamed out, “Do not use another sedative when you’re using heroin.” If we do that we can prevent a number of deaths but we don’t do that in this society.

Instead we just blame heroin so people who are using heroin don’t know this information. Just tell them, “Please don’t use another sedative.” And keep people safe.

DEAN BECKER: You talk about in the book that there is this idea that drug users have this uncontrollable craving but you’ve conducted studies which show that to be less than true.

CARL HART: There’s this believe, for example, when you take a drug like crack cocaine there was myth perpetuated in the mid-80s that one hit from crack cocaine and you’re addicted for life and you’re only driven by going to get that drug. You have these cognitive impairments – a wide range of sort of negative behavioral effects that we have been led to believe and it’s simply not supported by research.

Data from research does not support those notions. Data from my studies as well as other people’s studies show that people who use crack cocaine are not cognitively impaired. They respond just like you and I would to various options.

OK, if you have a choice between a nice dose of cocaine and nothing – what would you do? Well, you’ll probably take the crack cocaine but if you give them a choice between a hit of crack cocaine and let’s just say 5, 10, 20 dollars or something like that they will choose money. That’s how most of us would respond.

Or if you give them a choice to pay a bill that will help your children out they’ll choose the option that helps their children out and not this sort of myth that we’ve all been taught about. It just simply not supported by evidence from research.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, it’s not a zombie-like “more drugs” – it’s not that way at all.

Once again, speaking with Dr. Carl Hart, author of “High Price.”

I think it was last week…two weeks ago that the New York Times kind of did a mia culpa (that didn’t say as much) but they were talking about the crack baby scare and how untrue that was and, once again, we have to be careful about what we know to be true, right?

CARL HART: The New York Times, like you said, did run that piece about a week and one-half ago but they had run a similar piece maybe a year and one-half/two years ago about the sort of crack baby epidemic that wasn’t.

They have been on it sort of in the past several years. That was all part of the whole crack hysteria – part of these myths that led to those awful laws surrounding crack cocaine versus powder cocaine as you know.

In 1986 we passed these laws that punished crack cocaine one hundred times more harshly than powder cocaine. In the book I clearly show why that was unfair because the two drugs are essentially the same drug. They produce the same effect but the media hysteria surrounding crack cocaine in the mid-80s made the public believe that crack was a completely different drug.

The difference, of course, is that crack is smoked whereas powder cocaine is snorted and injected. When you look at the effects no matter what route the drug is taken the effects are virtually the same particularly when you compare intravenous cocaine administration and smoked cocaine administration. They produce the same effects and I clearly show this in the book.

In August 2010 President Obama signed legislation to decrease the disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100 – 1 to 18 - 1. That certainly was a step in the right direction but I have been arguing that it needs to be 1-1 because it makes no sense when the two drugs are the same.

It would be like punishing people who smoke marijuana more harshly than those who take marijuana via a brownie. It’s just not fair.

DEAN BECKER: No it’s not, Carl. I tell you what we have a couple minutes left here and I wanted to address the appeal that I think is in this book – the appeal to the American people, the people of the world – to just take another look at this drug problem, right?

CARL HART: Yeah, I hope, as you opened this interview, you pointed out that there was a number of things in the book. One of the things that I hope people see and I want people to see that I’m a regular person. People who grew up like me really have been punished and they really have been shut out of mainstream society. I want people to see that we have wasted large human resources by our drug policy.

If we think about what happened to my friends and the people that grew up with me (this is one of the reasons I told their stories) that could have been me. That could have been …that would have been a loss to our society.

I have made scientific contributions. I have made a number of contributions not to mention that I pay my taxes, trying to do my part to contribute to society. The folks who look like me, who grew up like me, many of the guys my age – they are not. They haven’t made those contributions because they got saddled with a criminal record related to a drug charge, related to drug possession charges and those sorts of things.

The society loses. The society loses their taxes. The society loses their other contribution and so I hope that reasonable people, reasonable Americans will see that this is so un-American and so unfair and realize that we have to do something differently.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, we certainly do. Once again we’re speaking with Dr. Carl Hart. He’s written a great book, “High Price - A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs & Society.”

We’ve got about a minute or so left here. Don’t take this wrong but you’re not my typical pot head interview. You’re a professor at Columbia University. You’ve been awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Very good credentials…30 seconds – close it out for us, Carl.

CARL HART: One of the things is that it has taken me a long time to write this book and it had to be the right time and this is the right time. I have been doing this for over 20 years. As you pointed out I have INH grants and I’m on INH review committees. I had to make sure that my credentials were tight.

If my credentials were not tight no one would listen to me particularly when I am challenging so fiercely what is currently being done with drugs. I hope people will read my scientific papers, look at my credentials and see that this is a sincere plea to the American public.

DEAN BECKER: Thank you, Carl. We’ll be in touch. I’m sure we’ll do another interview before the year is over. Once again I applaud you for your book.

Folks, pick up a copy. Learn a little bit. It’ll perhaps motivate you to help bring an end to this madness. It’s “High Price - A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs & Society.”

Carl Hart, thank you so much.

CARL HART: Thank you and I look forward to seeing you again.

[game show music]

It’s time to play Name That Drug by Its Side Effects!

Headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, irregular pulse, skin discoloration, weakness, amnesia, agitation, loose stools, coughing, taste perversion, tremors, arrhythmia, cardiac failure and death…

{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up!

Then answer: from Pfizer Laboratories, Caduet, for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.


TERRY NELSON: This is Terry Nelson of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Mike Riggs of Reason reports that The Justice Department's asset forfeiture fund under President Obama is the largest it's ever been, having grown from $500 million in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2011, according to a new report from the GAO.

In addition to the fund's size, payments from the fund to local law enforcement agencies totaled $445 million in 2011, another all-time high. These payouts are part of the DOJ's "equitable sharing agreement," which incentivizes local cops to conduct federal raids. They then get a portion of the assets seized during the raid (more money if they contribute more resources). That money is then used to finance SWAT and paramilitary training, as well as the acquisition of military grade weapons and equipment.

Originally the primary reason police seized assets was to break up the illegal drug supply lines. Today, however, that original reason has been replaced by self-serving budgetary considerations. Citizens should legitimately ask why their local police force conducts drug raids. Is it to rid the town of drugs — or are the raids an easy source of extra income that harms innocent people along the way?

The Institute for Justice paper Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture chronicles how state and federal laws leave innocent property owners vulnerable to forfeiture abuse and encourage law enforcement to take property to boost their budgets. The report finds that by giving law enforcement a direct financial stake in forfeiture efforts, most state and federal laws encourage policing for profit, not justice.

Policing for Profit also grades the states on how well they protect property owners—only three states receive a B or better. And in most states, public accountability is limited as there is little oversight or reporting about how police and prosecutors use civil forfeiture or spend the proceeds. Federal laws encourage even more civil forfeiture abuse through a loophole called “equitable sharing” that allows law enforcement to circumvent even the limited protections of state laws. With equitable sharing, law enforcement agencies can and do profit from forfeitures they wouldn’t be able to under state law.

It is time for federal and state legislators to shut down the conflict of interest loophole that allows police departments to profit from their official duties at the expense of the very citizens they are hired to protect. As current and former officers we know that legalization will drastically reduce the crime and violence surrounding drug smuggling.

Let's spend the money on education and treatment instead of incarceration. We all want a better future for ourselves and our children.

It’s time to end civil forfeiture. People shouldn’t lose their property without being convicted of a crime, and law enforcement shouldn’t be able to profit from other people’s property.

Speaking for LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition),, this is Terry Nelson, signing off. Stay safe.


DEAN BECKER: Alright, my friends, I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Cultural Baggage.

I think it important to note as we close out todays show that never in the history of the world has there been one man with so much knowledge about everything under the sun. The only such man ever in the history of mankind to reach this level of knowledge is the one and only Donald J. Trump, master of everything that ever was or ever will be.

Donald Trump: I am the chosen one.

Thanks again to Dr. Carl Hart and his great book, “High Price” and, as always I remind you, once again, that because of prohibition you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful.


DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.