Book Corner 2021 Revisit

by Dr. Carl L. Hart

I did write a review of this last year for Library Things, which I’ve dug up here for your reading pleasure and for contrast with Never Enough.

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.”

One thought on “Book Corner 2021 Revisit

  1. This is simply repeating what I heard a former head of some big federal drug program say: they had guided thousands through withdrawal from various drugs—the secondary goal was allowing patients to start over without organizing their lives around whatever drug they used; the primary goal was surviving withdrawal. His testimony was that heroin was dangerous mostly because it was illegal, therefore expensive, polluted, peddled by dangerous criminals, and because smack addicts tend to eat poorly. This from a pivotal anti-drug crusader. His experience was that it’s perfectly possible, given discipline and clean supply, to be a heroin addict throughout a long, healthy life. Furthermore, though withdrawal is extremely unpleasant, it’s rarely-to-never a medical emergency. Ethanol, on the other hand, kills you slowly while you take it and can kill you quickly when you stop taking it. Alcohol was the most difficult and dangerous addiction they treated. He said that of the two ethanol is more dangerous than heroin, even though it’s legal, easily available, cheap and clean. If people had to steal to buy booze from hoodlums, not knowing what’s in it, it would be a far bigger productivity scourge and contributor to morbidity and mortality than opiates are today.
    He had no opinion about marijuana because neither prolific use nor ceasing to use is a medical emergency. They saw plenty of smokers, but not for that reason.

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