Thursday, December 04, 2014
High Price by Carl Hart
High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know about Drugs and Society. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. eBook, 299 pps.
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Carl Hart is a black man whose life could have wound up very differently than it had. He was well-acquainted with guns, drugs, and crime as a young man. But things happened and instead of winding up incarcerated or worse, he became a noted neuro-scientist. Even so, his status and N.I.H. identification card did not save him from having to participate in a one person line-up. The cops suspected him of being a bank robber even though he had just come out of the bank with his statement in hand. They didn't care that he was a top neuro-scientist or anything. They only cared that he was black and the bank robber was black too. After twenty minutes, he was allowed to go.
In High Price, Carl Hart recounts his story along with the research that he has done concerning the nature of addiction and of addicts. I learned from this book that Desoxyn (tm), Ritalin (tm) and Adderall (tm) are prescribed for people with A.D.H.D.yet people who take Adderall for treatment of A.D.H.D. are actually at lower risk for addiction than those whose A.D.H.D. is left untreated. All three agents release dopamine which was at one time implicated in the development of addiction. The development of "meth-mouth," i.e. rotting teeth is actually not from the intake of street meth-- which is what the hyped up media and alarmist addictions workers would have us believe-- but rather from poor hygiene and lack of dental care. People do not develop meth-mouth from ingesting the drugs which are prescribed for their A.D.H.D. These three drugs are the same ones available to addicts in the streets and are indicted as being responsible for rotting teeth. Hmmm.
We were also taught that crack is different from cocaine. The only difference is the way in which the high is delivered. Thus, the old saw about crack being "instantly addictive" is crap. The research also does not bear out the idea that an active drug addict cannot prevent himself from using when he is offered the choice of a hit or some money for not taking the hit.
Carl Hart gives ample evidence of why the drug laws are the way they are in the United States, citing racism as being responsible for us having laws that science does not support. His definition of racism is found on page 20: "Racism is the belief that social and cultural differences between groups are inherited and immutable, making some groups inalterably superior to others." He goes on in that paragraph to describe institutional racism that is present in education, the criminal justice system, and other places. That definition alone was worth the price of this book.
sapphoq reviews says: Carl Hart turned much of what I thought I knew about addiction on its head. He does not address treatment for addiction in High Price other than citing the research showing that addicts benefit more and longer from exposure to contingency motivation therapy (and the use of monetary rewards specifically) than from traditional counseling associated with funneling addicts into twelve step rooms. The percentage of addicts who stayed with the treatment until the end and the percentage of addicts who remained clean for a period of time or longer afterwards was significantly higher in the first group of research subjects than in the second group. There were many many other things that I thought I knew which turn out not to be supported by neuro-scientific research. High Price left me a bit pissed off at the media too, more than I already was. I am following up with reading a book that Carl Hart referenced dealing with the history of our draconian drug laws and how racism impacted their formation. High Price is absolutely highly recommended, especially to those who are not afraid of having what they've been told about addiction to be roundly challenged.