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Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear (2021)

de Carl L. Dr. Hart

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To describe this book in one word, I'd maybe choose "scandalous." Dr. Hart uses heroin & has no intention of stopping. It's a harmless hobby, like having a drink. "Grown-ups" can responsibly take heroin, and opioids, and meth - there is no drug that should be off limits. Now there's the general libertarian argument for that, which Dr. Hart espouses; but as a tenured professor of psychology at Columbia specializing in neuropharmacology, he'll also argue authoritatively that none of these drugs will necessarily harm you, if used responsibly - so it's not simply a matter of "you should be able to legally destroy your life if you choose". It's also that, if you're a "grown-up" about it, you won't.

Dr. Hart wrote this risky book to come out of the closet, in the hopes others would follow. I think he will likely find himself forever in the minority. I've never read any account of someone in such a prestigious station in life coming clean about so much casual, ongoing drug use (he's tried everything). But now I have - & I guess he'd say that's the point of the book.

And I know he'll say that this is more evidence of how badly the book is needed, but hearing him justify his heroin use and explain how NOT an addict he is made me wonder how long it might take for the inevitable shoe to drop - where will Dr. Hart be a year or more from now? Still a happy user insisting he's not an addict? Will it be true? I believe it to be true of him now. I do believe his accounts and all the evidence he presents; but being brainwashed by our anti-drug society I just can't help but wonder...

One constant point of his that I appreciate is this: drugs feel good, and that's reason enough to take them. He gets really uptight around LSD users because they tend to try to justify their drug use as "different" from others - they're doing it for mind-expanding reasons or whatever, not to get high. "What's wrong with getting high?" he cuts one guy off mid-sentence. I love that. The right to pleasure... not currently enshrined in the Constitution, but should be, as Tom Lehrer put it decades ago. He was talking about pornography, not drugs, but the principle's the same -

"Obscenity. I'm for it. Unfortunately the civil liberties types who are fighting this issue have to fight it owing to the nature of the laws as a matter of freedom of speech and stifling of free expression and so on - but we know what's really involved: dirty books are fun. That's all there is to it. But you can't get up in a court and say that I suppose. it's simply a matter of freedom of pleasure, a right which is not guaranteed by the constitution unfortunately." ( )
  Tytania | Oct 19, 2021 |
Interesting Perspective Marred By Bias And Lack Of Scholarly Rigor. Let me state up front: I am a former Libertarian Party official at the State and local level, and an avowed anarchist to boot. I fully concur with Dr. Hart's position that all drugs should be fully decriminalized. And it was this agreement that had me initially wanting to rate this book at a full 5*.

But considering the actual arguments and the actual text presented, I cannot claim to be an objective judge of the merits of the books I'm reading if I did that. Because there are definite problems with this book that I've called out in no uncertain terms when I *didn't* agree with the author's positions - and thus I cannot ignore them here, when I do largely agree with the author's positions.

Specifically, there is quite a bit of anti-white "they're all just a bunch of racist pieces of shit" strawmen commentary in this text. Numerous cases where Hart blames racism rather than applying Hanlon's Razor or even looking for alternative, non-race based reasonings for his opponents' positions. And having been on both sides of this debate at different times in my life, I can testify as a fellow Son of the South (rural exurbs outside Atlanta vs Hart's coming of age in urban Miami) that there *are* several other rationales other than the racism Hart claims is at the heart of all anti-drug laws.

Further, barely 12% of this text is bibliography, despite Hart claiming numerous times "I know I'm going to have to present some evidence here since this is not a commonly held position". More often than not, rather than actually examining studies showing various harms from various substances, Hart dismisses them with the hand wave of a professor more concerned with getting his own point across, "there is no basis for that claim, we're moving on".

I actually enjoyed the less formal tone of the presentation here, as it made the book overall far more readable than some academics make their narratives. I simply wish the narrative were more substantive.

Recommended. ( )
  BookAnonJeff | Jul 11, 2021 |
Dr. Carl L. Hart, a Columbia University professor, headed the Department of Psychology. He is an avowed user of recreational and hard drugs, enjoying many of side effects. He argues that the government is undermining a founding principal of the pursuit of happiness by making drug possession illegal. He believes that decriminalization would reduce deaths as one of the primary causes of death is impurities and dosages, which could be better controlled or tested. Hart claims that the press and academia have a strong bias to publish only negative aspects of drugs, often omitting known therapeutic benefits for ADHD patients or those who suffer from chronic pain. He has traveled and lectured all over the world, and discussed other countries' approaches to treatment, illegality, etc. I found the book interesting although a bit repetitive. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
This was such a provocative read! I thought I held fairly progressive views on drug use, but Hart made me feel like the D.A.R.E. program. There's a lot of food for thought here--some parts are a little dry, but overall it really challenged the way I view drugs, particularly "hard" drugs. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
Okay so the good stuff about this book: the science is fascinating, I learned a lot, and I frankly really strongly agree with Hart. I did before I read the book, but his arguments about pleasure are pretty compelling. He's able to tie together both the science and the racist history of drug criminalization (and the criminalization of Black people through drugs.)

The major thing that kept this from being five stars, for me, was the way Hart uses "responsible" in his argument for who should get to use drugs freely. "Responsible" means nothing in this text; he never clarifies exactly who he thinks is "irresponsible," though he suggests that people with psychiatric illness should not use drugs (despite the VERY COOL fact that he drops that heroin is potentially AS effective at treating psychotic symptoms as anti-psychotics, with fewer side effects--which would suggest to me that perhaps people with psychosis would benefit from using heroin.) (Disclaimer I'm not a doctor and I'm not telling folks who experience symptoms of psychosis to use heroin.)

This specter of responsibility hangs over this book, and given the classist, racist implications of "responsibility" that have been wielded against poor people and people of color in this country, I don't think it fits with his argument. It's a bad softening of his argument, and it creates this tension between drug users who he deems are "responsible" and users who don't fall into that category. What differences are there between someone who uses drugs as self-medication for mental illness and Hart, who says in the text of the book that he uses drugs instead of going to therapy (because of the racism of mental healthcare.) I understand why he doesn't use the description "self-medication" (because he's trying to resist a medicalization of his own drug use,) but it definitely sounds like that's what he's doing. How do we address that? How do we validate it? How can drug users "in the closet" show solidarity with drug users who cannot be in the closet, outside of "coming out"? These are all questions that are raised for me by his differentiation, and none are really answered by the book.

I do definitely recommend people read this, especially because the discussion about the legalization of drugs is compelling and something to seriously think about. I just think some of his framing raises more problems than he addresses, and I found it a really big gap in the book. ( )
  aijmiller | Apr 21, 2021 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Carl L. Dr. Hartautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Alexander, PlaegianCopyeditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Garruzzo, CassandraDissenyadorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Ross, StephanieDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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