Columbia U. Scientist says 80-90% of Drug Users not Addicted

September 23,2013

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 5.04.59 PMDr. Carl Hart, an Associate Professor of Psycology at Columbia University, has written a book debunking so-called myths about drug usage. According to Dr. Hart, “Eighty to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine don’t get addicted,”. This somewhat contrarian position is of interest, because it runs counter to accepted concepts of much  the scientific community in this country. In his recently published book, “High Price“, His book attributes the drug problem to societal ills and claims that drug abuse is merely a symptom of society’s problems.

Although highly controversial, Dr. Hart’s assertions are supported in part, by some fellow scientists (see New York Times article, “The Rational Choice of Crack Addicts“). “Drug warriors may be skeptical of his work, but some other scientists are impressed. “Carl’s overall argument is persuasive and driven by the data,” said Craig R. Rush, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky who studies stimulant abuse”.

While I find Dr.Hart’s research of interest, I believe that his findings may overstate the benign nature of drug abuse. Drugs like crack cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine are often enormously destructive to the users and those around them. Most scientists would agree that sociological influences can and do have an enormous influence on the drug user and their level of abuse. As Dr.Hart claims, it is an easy out to blame physical addiction for the drug abuser’s criminal conduct and anti-social behavior.

While most researchers would admit that addicts make up less than half of those charged with drug offenses, politicians continue to argue that if we can cure the offender of their reliance on drugs, we will solved the crime problem. But as those knowledgeable about the criminal justice system know, if you cure the drug abuser of their dependence on drugs, you may simply create a healthier criminal.

The reality is that their are multiple reasons why people are drug abusers and commit anti-social acts and that the path to recovery may require an equally multi-faceted response. Blaming everything on drug abuse clearly misses the point, according  to Dr.Hart. It will take treatment, rehabilitation (and habilitation in many  cases), jobs and job training, education, and  most of all, a willingness to give the anti-social outsider, an opportunity to be part of and have a stake in  mainstream society.


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