In the book, Drugs Use for Grown-Ups, author Carl Hart says that he uses heroin to be a better person. Hart is a professor of psychology at Columbia University and has spent most of his adult life studying drugs. When he first started studying drugs, he bought into the idea that all drugs are bad. But as he learned more, he saw that drug use is completely content-dependent. Like anything in life, he says drugs can be used as life-enhancing or life-destroying depending on the context.
Prohibition Makes Drugs More Harmful
Hart is an Airforce veteran. He pays his taxes, volunteers in his community, and raises his kids to be responsible citizens. He believes that in America, the substances a person chooses to put into their body are none of the government’s business. He says that the way we categorize and vilify certain drugs doesn’t make sense. Alcohol, for example, can be an extremely harmful drug, yet it is legal. Hart points out that drugs become more dangerous when they are prohibited. Adulterants are often added on the black market and purity becomes suspect.
Most Drug Users Don’t Become Addicts
Hart points out that most drug users do not become addicts. The majority of drug users maintain jobs, and only a small percentage become addicted. He maintains that if drugs were legal it would be easier to get help if one does become addicted. The war on drugs, says Hart, only increases violence on the street. He points to places like Portugal where heroin was decriminalized and heroin use actually went down. Or to Peru, where people drink cocaine on a daily basis through the leaves of the coca plant in their tea. Things like the set, setting, and route of administration make a big difference in how drugs affect a person.
Drug Laws Tend to Be Racist
For Hart, a big part of the war on drugs comes down to racism. He points to historical examples such as laws against opium use. This was enacted, he says, because hard-working Chinese immigrants enjoyed relaxing through the communal smoking of opium in opium dens in the evening, rather than unwinding with alcohol at a bar. The lawmakers specifically sought to create laws against opium because they saw the Chinese immigrants as a threat. He also points to differences in prison time for cocaine vs. crack. Cocaine users get less prison time than crack users because cocaine users tend to be white, while crack users tend to be black.
Coming Out of The Closet
Carl Hart says that he is open about his drug use because he feels it is his duty to shed light on the fact that most people who use drugs are not criminals or addicts. He says that it is time to stop discriminating against people because they choose to put certain drugs in their bodies. He believes that especially in the USA, the land of the free, we need to stop the prohibition against people pursuing happiness in their own way, even if that includes drug use.