Dr. Carl Hart has a rare and unique view of America’s ongoing “war on drugs,” both as a Columbia University Neuroscientist and one who grew up in the drug and crime infested streets of a poor neighborhood in Miami.
These truths formed the backbone of a recent TED talk delivered by Dr. Hart, in which he discussed his research into drug addiction and how that research has drastically changed his views on America’s drug war.
And, according to the Washington Post, Dr. Hart’s presentation on drug addiction and America’s drug war may be “the best case against the drug war ever made.”
Dr. Hart emerged from his impoverished and drug addled childhood into academia and neuroscience with strong anti-drug beliefs and America’s need for its drug war, saying “I fully believed that the crime and poverty in my community was a direct result of crack cocaine.”
But the more Dr. Hart researched, the more those views and support of the drug war changed.
Recently, Dr. Hart decided to recruit some of the drug war’s main participants, cocaine and meth users, from the front lines of the drug war and put them in the lab for a few days, seeing if, given the choice, the alleged drug addicts would take drugs or money.
The coke and meth users were offered either $5 dollars or hits of their drug of choice. Importantly, for the legitimacy of the experiment and any findings, the drugs made available were worth more, monetarily, than the $5 dollars.
The results of the research might surprise the hardcore drug war proponents and supporters, that the degenerate drug abusers didn’t instantly ravage the drugs without a second thought. To the contrary, Dr. Hart found that half of both cocaine and meth users chose the money over their perceived fix.
And the percentage of drug users opting for the money over drugs went up to around 80 percent when the offer was raised to $20 dollars.
“Attractive alternatives dramatically decrease drug use,” concluded Dr. Hart.
Along with that research’s findings conflicting with long held drug war claims, Dr. Hart also noted that the large majority of illegal drug users don’t fit the drug war’s stereotypical drug-fiend image, either.
“80 to 90 percent of people who use illegal drugs are not addicts. They don’t have a drug problem. Most are responsible members of our society. They are employed. They pay their taxes. They take care of their families. And in some cases they even become president of the United States.”
Unfortunately, many of these people also end up behind bars, supporting a growing prison industry which, in turn, supports the drug war. At the same time, many in law enforcement also recognize the damage being caused by the drug war.
According to Dr. Hart, one in three African-American men will end up being casualties of the drug war, a statistic Dr. Hart directly related to when he said, “I’m a father of three black sons. One has spent time in jail for drug laws.”
As for drug use vs. drug war enforcement, Dr. Hart points out that use of a drug is far more predictable than any interaction with police, especially when drugs are involved.
“I don’t know how to keep my children safe with the police because, particularly when it comes to black folks, interactions with police are not predictable.”
Former drug war law enforcement officer Jack Cole, reporting his experiences and conclusions as a combatant on the front lines of the drug war, also sees the drug war as futile and far more damaging than anything it solves.
“There are better ways to spend our money. Treating drug use as a health problem instead of a crime problem and instituting policies of education and regulation will greatly reduce death, disease, crime and drug abuse in America.”
What are your views on the drug war in America?
[Image via pixgood.com]