Dr. Carl Hart

There are intelligent, insightful people all over the world who are pushing back against years of rigid, discriminatory orthodoxy concerning drug use. One such voice is Dr. Carl Hart. Dr. Hart is a professor of psychology at Columbia University, where he studies neuropharmacology, which is how drugs affect the brain. He was one of the first African-American science professors at Columbia to be tenured. Dr. Hart argues that many fears about drugs in the contemporary world are misguided, and come from old racial prejudice. He also argues that many drug-use situations don’t cause harm. In fact, he says, responsible drug use can lead to greater personal happiness. 

Dr. Hart grew up in Carol City, a low-income and crime-ridden neighborhood in Miami. After receiving his PhD in neuroscience, he planned to study areas like Carol City. At that time, he believed that drug use was a cause for many social ills. But his research began to show that this wasn’t true. He discovered that it was the context drugs were used in that caused positive or negative outcomes. The drugs themselves were not dangerous. When he stopped saying that drugs were bad, the federal government stopped funding him. But to this day, employed by one of the most prestigious universities in the world, Dr. Hart continues to teach and research about realistic drug use. 

Dr. Hart is also open about his own drug use. He has publicly stated that he enjoys heroin and MDMA. And, he says that this does not interfere with his responsibilities as a husband, father, researcher, teacher, or friend. Remember that he is a tenured professor at an elite university. There is no paradox, says Dr. Hart, between these two parts of his identity. He says that drug use is commonly misunderstood as drug addiction. Drug addiction, he argues, is comparatively uncommon and is often co-occurrent with other medical conditions. Drug use, to Dr. Carl Hart, deserves to exist in a free society where responsible, mature individuals can make choices for themselves.