In this comprehensive and illuminating study, Columbia University psychology professor Hart (High Price) combines his scientific research on how recreational drugs impact brain functioning with reflections on his own use of heroin and other drugs. Hart’s appeal for more liberal drug laws is based on his professional transformation from being a “true believer” in the ideology that drugs cause brain damage to debunker of the “distorted” science behind harsh drug policies.
He views the war on drugs as a means for police departments to inflate their budgets, and points out that drugs are inherently more dangerous when illegal because people don’t know what they’re taking (fentanyl instead of heroin, for example). He critiques data collection methods for counting overdose deaths, noting that the qualifications for “death investigators” vary widely from state to state and that the co-occurrence of alcohol in opioid overdoses is often “completely ignored,” and alleges that police often use toxicology reports to justify excessive force.
Hart closes the book with a call for “respectable middle-class drug users [to] stop concealing their use” and engage in efforts to dismantle the “antidrug bureaucracy.” Careful reasoning and detailed evidence buttress the book’s most surprising claims, including that methamphetamine and Adderall produce “nearly identical effects” on users. This bracingly contrarian take provides much food for thought.