Michelle Dunbar, host of The Saint Jude Retreats Blog Talk Radio Show, interviews Dr. Carl Hart and the truth about addictions is discussed. Dr. Hart is a well known researcher in addiction studies. Dr. Hart wrote High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. His research-tested and disproved many myths of drug use and addiction. He also has two more books he’s since released as well, which are available on his website
Dr. Hart and Ms. Dunbar talk about what addiction myths are in society. Dr. Hart discusses the myth of addiction as a medical disease or a genetic problem. While the brain scans of people with Alzheimers or Parkinsons disease show changes, the scans of brains of people using drugs look like brain scans of people who don’t use drugs. He found no scientific evidence to support this idea even though scientists have looked for many years.
Another myth is that drug use is the cause of crime and poverty in poor communities. Drug use didn’t start the cycle. Crime and poverty exist regardless of drugs. Some people may choose to use drugs to escape stressors like crime and poverty in their environment for a little while. Drug use is seen across races and socioeconomic circumstances.
Dr. Hart explains how people of color in poor communities have been impacted by these myths more than others. He also says some groups benefit from keeping these myths alive. Ms. Dunbar and Dr.Hart talk about “attractive alternatives” to deal with drug use in America. He believes attractive alternatives can help more than the current legal and government fixes.
Dr. Hart is concerned that good help for people facing drug problems can be hard to find. Because the government will pay for a medical disease to be treated, drug programs use a disease model to get payment. Scientific evidence refutes the medical model of addiction and the outcomes for these programs are poor. As long as programs are based on faulty evidence, they will continue to have poor outcomes. If rehabs were paid by their success rate, they would use different and better methods.
Another concern for Dr. Hart is that many drug rehabs use former drug users as counselors. Having used drugs doesn’t make a person expert on program intake and assessment. He states drug programs need people who are able to provide good evaluations and not just have experience with taking drugs. Good evaluations and assessment would help get people what they need to be successful whether that is help with getting a job, getting mental health support or unlearning myths of addiction.
Dr. Hart discusses how he believes all drugs could be decriminalized. He says drug use could be like a speeding ticket. The US spends 26 billion on drug enforcement every year. Rather than spending money on police, courts, and jail, money could go to developing more job opportunities, better drug programs, and safer communities. Portugal and the Czech Republic have decriminalized drug use with good results.
Ms. Dunbar and Dr. Hart also talk about drug education in schools. Misinformation about addiction and drugs are taught every day in schools across the US. Drug education now is about scare tactics. Too many drug education programs focus on abstinence. Dr. Hart feels this is unrealistic. We are a society that uses drugs legally and illegally every day. Kids have to learn the truth to make good decisions about drug use.
Dr. Hart explains how drugs that are chemically the same can bring different reactions based on the drug’s reputation. For instance, parents may be very worried if their teen uses amphetamines. On the other hand, they will go get a prescription for Adderall for their teen without a thought. Chemically the two drugs are the same. The body uses them the same way but one is used illegally and the other is prescribed. The science of the drugs is neutral. The labels society uses for drugs are not.
Dr. Hart thinks young people today are getting better information on drugs and addiction. They will grow up to be the next researchers. He wants them to ask the tough questions and demand answers. He hopes his work will give the next generation access to better information. He hopes his work ends some of the myths of drugs so the next generation can go further.