Carl Hart: Heroin, Cocaine, MDMA, Alcohol & the Role of Drugs in Society (#233) | Lex Fridman Podcast

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Key Takeaways

  • “When people are seeking pleasure and feeling better, why don’t we celebrate that? Instead, we denigrate people for that. If I feel better, I’m more likely to treat you well.” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • “The drugs people seek should be legally regulated and available to adults” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • Regardless of the drug, in the correct environment, usage has shown a positive correlation to increased empathy, euphoria, focus, as well as enhanced social interactions, and increased sexual intimacy and performance
    • The greater number of happy people in the world, the better off we all are
  • We have education embedded in our culture on how and when to effectively consume alcohol, but we don’t uphold the same standards and practices for other drugs
  • “The destructive effects of drugs is essentially a scapegoat for the failures of leaders and politicians to alleviate the suffering of people in their communities” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • Drug abuse and addiction have very little to do with the drug, but rather psychosocial factors
    • Biology is not the only factor that dictates drug effects, the environment plays a substantial role
  • Movies and television drive false narratives about drugs. In The Sopranos, they portray that drug use is a greater moral flaw than murder
  • “The illicit drug trade business is a multi-billion dollar industry, it can not be supported by people that are poor” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • The war on drugs and drug trade do not continue based on morals, science, or medical research, it continues on behalf of the monetary incentive behind the curtain

Intro

  • Dr. Carl Hart (@drcarlhart) is the department chair and professor of psychology at Columbia University. His most recent research is communicated in his new book release, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear. In this episode, Lex and Dr. Hart discuss how environmental and psychosocial factors contribute to drug use experiences and how drugs have been misrepresented in society for too long.
  • Host: Lex Fridman (@lexfridman)

Drug Use For Grown-Ups

  • Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear by Dr. Carl Hart
    • Regardless of the drug used (cannabis, cocaine, MDMA, heroin, psilocybin, and more), the research findings suggest positive correlations linked to increased empathy, euphoria, focus, as well as enhanced social interactions and increased sexual intimacy and performance
      • “Everything I know about the brain, I’ve learned through drugs” – Dr. Carl Hart
      • Dr. Hart strives to understand the neural transmissions that happen to achieve the responses above as a result of drug use
      • Dr. Hart uses all these drugs to explore science and personal enrichment
    • “When people are seeking pleasure and feeling better, why don’t we celebrate that? Instead, we denigrate people for that. If I feel better, I’m more likely to treat you well.” – Dr. Carl Hart
  • With alcohol, we get culturally educated on how and when to use it but we don’t have this sort of attitude towards other drugs
    • The cautionary tales of drug use serve as a scapegoat to prop up the negative narrative and continued prohibition of drugs, overpowering scientific evidence of benefits
    • Simple education can help us reap the productive benefits we seek through drug use and minimize the risk
      • Example: Cocaine is a stimulant, so if you have to wake up early, don’t take it before bed
      • All pharmaceutical prescriptions have instructions for maximum effectiveness
      • There’s a difference between improper use and misuse
    • The drugs within this discussion have all been approved for medical use at least somewhere in the world
  • In the drug discussion, we often let personal evidence overpower data which leads to false narratives
    • “In a math problem, you don’t ask ‘what do you feel’? No, you look at what the data says” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • Dr. Hart says they have a substantial database that continues to get ignored by those governing the legality of drugs
      • Positive experiences are just as easy to quantify as negative experiences
  • “The drugs people seek should be legally regulated and available to adults” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • Regulated dosages and appropriate consumption methods (oral or nasal) can and should be regulated to maximize safety

Environment is Everything

  • Biology is not the only factor that dictates drug effects, the environment plays a substantial role
    • The positive or negative drug experience is strongly dependent on the environment
      • Previous life traumas can be triggered if not previously reconciled
      • Carl knows he needs to eat, sleep, and work out sufficiently to have a positive experience
      • Make sure all your responsibilities are accounted for
      • Understand the exact dose and legitimacy of your drug to relieve any anxiety
        • Anxiety is often not induced by the drug itself, but rather the situation
      • Surround yourself with people that you trust
    • People often claim that their most powerful drug experience is through ayahuasca, but that is because there is a lot of preparation with guided direction. The environment enables positive potential, regardless of drug choice.

Negative Effects of Drugs

  • Addiction has very little to do with the drug, but rather the psychosocial environment
    • Dr. Hart claims that this doesn’t get talked about because it’s not the ‘sexy’ narrative
    • An example is when a large industry leaves a small town, one’s social standing was dependent on that work opportunity. These people become susceptible to drug-related problems, but it’s not the drug’s fault, it’s the environment’s.
      • “The destructive effects of drugs is essentially a scapegoat for the failures of leaders and politicians to alleviate the suffering of people in their communities” – Dr. Carl Hart
  • Negative effects of drugs are often discussed based on narrative rather than truth
    • Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs when it comes to withdrawal
    • Constipation is actually one of the most dangerous side-effects of heroin use

Media Bias Towards Drugs

  • There’s too much money in frightening the public as opposed to educating the public on drug use
  • “You can say the stupidest things about drugs and be believed” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • In a movie, you don’t even have to develop a character if you include drugs. People instantly apply their negative collective bias towards that character.
    • The Sopranos glorify murder while denouncing drug use, they portray a narrative that drug use is a greater moral flaw than murder
      • Dr. Hart doesn’t hate the movies but hates their lack of commitment to reality, the false narratives have encouraged the war on drugs

The War on Drugs

  • Lex asks if the War on Drugs has done more positive or negative in the world
    • “Depends on what world you live in…” – Dr. Carl Hart
      • It’s beneficial to the world of law enforcement, politicians, media, tv shows, urine testing companies, prisons, businesses surrounding the prisons, and more
    • The war on drugs continues because there continue to be people that benefit monetarily
      • “The illicit drug trade business is a multi-billion dollar industry, it can not be supported by people that are poor” – Dr. Carl Hart
  • Dr. Hart believes nobody should be arrested for anything drug-related and everyone in prison should have their records remedied
  • “If you want a problem not to be solved, give it to military or give it to the cops” – Dr. Carl Hart
    • Glorifying cops is a problem for democracy in Carl’s opinion
    • Cops are the shield to the politician

Life Advice

  • Don’t fake the funk. Know your craft and truly be a service.
    • When you have people in positions of power claiming a service that they do not truly provide, society fails
  • Doesn’t recommend getting a Ph.D. – just do what you love
    • Science can be a very petty space to be in
  • The greater number of happy people in the world, the better off we all are
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Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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