Carl Hart is a psychology professor at Columbia University, a well regarded researcher, and "an unapologetic drug user" who has been using heroin regularly for five years. So the 54-year-old reveals in Drug Use for Grown-Ups, which he released in January. Unapologetic is right. As the Guardian reports, Hart is open and direct: "I do not have a drug-use problem. Never have. Each day, I meet my parental, personal and professional responsibilities. I pay my taxes, serve as a volunteer in my community on a regular basis and contribute to the global community as an informed and engaged citizen. I am better for my drug use." In the Guardian's view, it's the "who" as much as the "what" in this case: These words are coming not from a "beat poet or avant-garde artist" but a man whose career has been spent studying drugs' neurological and behavioral effects on us.
The Wall Street Journal reports his research started from a place of conventional wisdom: that drugs destroyed people and neighborhoods, including his own in South Florida in the early '80s. It led him to neuroscience, with his thinking being that he could repair his community if he could "stop people from taking drugs, especially by fixing their broken brains." But he said his efforts to prove that marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine were deeply harmful to the drug users who participated in his study came up short. In all cases, participants largely reported feeling "more altruistic, empathetic, euphoric, focused, grateful, and tranquil." NPR reports Hart delves into the racist history that he sees as responsible for giving drugs such a bad rap and provides "ample research" to back up his stance that people should be able to use drugs as they wish, though he advocates for things like federal regulation and purity testing. (Read the full Guardian piece for much more.)