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.
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Dr. Carl Hart
Tue, 01/19/2021 - 14:57
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.