Carl Hart: Drug Use for Grown-Ups

The Columbia neuroscientist talks frankly about using heroin responsibly and “chasing liberty in the land of fear.”



Carl Hart: Drug Use for Grown-Ups

Even among proponents of drug legalization, Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hart stands apart for his unflinching honesty.

“I am now entering my fifth year as a regular heroin user,” the 54-year-old full professor writes in Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. “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…and contribute to the global community as an informed and engaged citizen. I am better for my drug use.”

In a wide-ranging conversation with Nick Gillespie, Hart makes the case that responsible adults should be free to buy, sell, and use whatever substances they want to and that policy discussions about drug use have been polluted by bad information and moral posturing. He marshals an impressive body of academic research showing that virtually all currently illegal drugs can be and are used safely by millions of people, that drug prohibition has little or nothing to do with public safety, and that the United States would be a better place if its citizens were allowed to consume a much broader set of substances for pleasure.

“The Declaration of Independence guaranteed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all of us, as long as we don’t disrupt anybody else’s ability to do the same,” says Hart. “That means we get to live our life as we choose, as we see fit. Taking drugs can be a part of that and is a part of that for a lot of Americans.”

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