Is he right? Or is this just justification from a high functioning addict?
Carl Hart says he first used heroin six or seven years ago. At that time, he was already a tenured professor at Columbia University and “well over 40,” according to his new book, “Drug Use for Grown Ups.” After snorting that “short, thin line” with a friend, he said he felt “a dreamy light sedation, free of stress.” He said that the two chatted, laughed, “called it an evening and went home”, as if going out for a few beers. Can you guess how his “experiment” with drug addiction eventually turned out?
Hart, a psychology professor and neuroscience expert, had already worked (legally) with drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin for over 25 years, studying drug addicts and users, seeking to answer questions about the threats drugs pose to mental and physical health.
For most of that time, Hart was set on proving one point: Drugs are bad. Maybe he got a bit too close to the flame? Drugs are notorious for twisting and turning even the most brilliant individuals into addicts who then will do anything to justify their continued use. Now, he just wishes he could do them legally and that you could, too.
“My heroin use is as recreational as my alcohol use,” Hart wrote in his book. “Like vacation, sex, and the arts, heroin is one of the tools that I use to maintain my work-life balance.”
Even Professors Get Hooked
His own personal experiences with heroin would seem to say otherwise. This may be one of the greatest instances of justification by an addict of all time. As Hart has admitted to going through heroin withdrawal on more than one occasion, a clear sign of addiction and dependence- let’s take out the professor title and pretend we are reading about a college student still in school. Would we still give that college student national media exposure and a “free pass” to continue using illegal drugs to the point of withdrawal? Would we not desperately try to save them, from their own destruction?
In his book, he speaks of his experience with what he called “mild heroin withdrawal”, which he said he had gone through more than once after he used “for no more than about 10 consecutive days at a time.”
The Pain Of Addiction
Hart experienced the usual withdrawal symptoms similar to the flu: chills, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, all starting about 12 to 16 hours after the final dose. For hours, it would be so painful that he couldn’t sleep.
“It was a pain that I would not easily forget. It was a new pain, unlike any I had previously experienced. It was so intense that it radiated throughout my entire body,” Hart wrote in the book, describing one of his worst experiences going through withdrawal.
Hart is an experienced drug user and knew what was happening. His solution for withdrawal was to crush up a bit of sedative and knock himself out for several hours, until the pain subsided to more “manageable” level. Keep in mind he has admitted that this was not his only time going through withdrawal. The doctrine he proposes is dangerous, especially to the young people who may influenced by his national media coverage.
Still Sick And Suffering
He is still sick like millions of other Americans and just like I was over 6 years ago in active addiction. I would come up with every excuse in the book to justify my own addiction, in particular my addiction to prescription pain killers. The only difference was that I was not a professor able to shout my misguided ideals from the rooftops. This professor also enjoys a drug that has caused me to lose my mind on more than one occasion, even ending up in jail. He talks of his extreme pleasure in snorting a version of bath salts known as cathinones. His assessment: “unequivocally wonderful.” In his book, he recounts the effects as being “euphoric, energetic, clearheaded and highly social … niiiiiice.” So nice, in fact, that he writes about wanting to take the drug ahead of “some awful required social event, such as an academic reception.”
While it is important to point out how wrong and dangerous the vast majority of this information is, it is also important to have compassion for Mr. Hart and his clear struggles with substance abuse. If we are going to preach tolerance and understanding for all people who struggle with addiction, we must extend that same compassion for those in the public eye, or those in authority such as Sheriffs, professors, artists and even politicians. While I can agree that locking up those struggling with addiction is not the answer, the answer is also not sniffing bath salts before dinner with your in-laws. Drug reform is needed in this country, along with access to better treatment.
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