Carl Hart, On Meth

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Saturday was Dean’s Day on campus, in which parents were encouraged to fork over some extra dough to attend lectures on drugs, Mexican popular culture, globalization, and other stuff. Rachel Lindsay attended Prof. Carl Hart’s lecture on demon drugs, and gives us this report: 

Meth, like crack, is whack. We know this. But Psychology professor Carl Hart also knows that the media tends to seize on legitimate societal ills and turn them into mass epidemics–“America’s Most Dangerous Drug,” according to an August 2005 Newsweek article. Exaggerating the effects of a psychologically damaging substance that expert scientists still don’t understand doesn’t help society change policies or attitudes towards users and their environment, it just leads to needless panic.

According to Hart, disintegrating mainstream media is at the forefront of the stigmas and scare tactics that spread false information about the drug, infiltrating even the pages Seventeen magazine. “Crack babies” have now become “meth babies” in the eyes of upright citizens, and as Hart notes, the media representation recalls the mid-eighties (the height of the “crack/cocaine epidemic”) when the media regularly invoked biblical imagery and religious guidance with a Puritanical sneer.

For instance, meth adiction has been described as a “plague”– albeit an incredibly useful plague for America’s economy. As Hart mentioned, meth has been available through prescription (in place of heroin) since the 1940s, marketed as a cure for female depression, a drug to help soldiers stay awake, a prophylactic against obesity, and most recently, a drug to quell ADHD. All this comes in spite of the fact that high doses have also resulted in schizophrenia, insomnia, and “stereotypy,” repeated or “nervous” movements. Moreover, Adderall differs only slightly on a molecular level from meth, and while its affects have been downplayed, there are striking similarities to meth’s psychological affects.

I asked Hart what he thought of Adderall usage on campus. He said did not know the scope and did not comment. However, he did say that Adderall abuse may cause toxic effects in the brain similar to those that have resulted in the disorders.

So what is the real scope of mehtamphetamine use in America? In 2004, a survey

revealed that 12.3 million Americans had used methamphetamine in their lifetimes. A current survey that asked individuals which drugs they had used in the past 30 days also revealed that about 15 million people used marijuana, 2.4 million cocaine, and 1.1 million hallucinogens. In contrast, about 500,000 had used meth and 166,000 heroin. As Hart argued, there seems to be a misrepresentation of how common meth really is, and its image as the demon drug du jour has more to do with media and profiling than actual popularity.


  1. all you  

    adderall junkies ruining the curve will get yours in the end!

  2. Sprinkles  

    Carl Hart was probably the best professor I had at Columbia. Sometimes it's the ones who don't get a lot of mention who teach the most brilliantly, not the big-name profs.

    • you're kidding  

      the only reason everyone likes him is because he's pro legalization of pot and the only drug he actually says is dangerous is meth. the lecture on alcohol consisted of a clip from the simpsons. thats not good teaching, thats a lazy ass who wants to be liked by the football players.

  3. Honestly  

    He was okay. Always entertaining, never particularly inspiring. This lecture hop pretty much sums up the take-home point for his entire course.

  4. certainly  

    He has an agenda. But he's an interesting professor and an amazingly approachable guy. One of the nicest profs I've had.

  5. Guenther Krumminga

    New Book On A Family's Fight Against Meth

    Good morning.

    My name is Guenther Krumminga, and I work on various projects for Virgin Books USA. The reason I'm writing you today is because of an important new book being published this week that I think anyone involved -- either personally or professionally -- in the fight against drug abuse will want to know about.

    The name of the book is "Loss of Innocence: A Daughter's Journey into the Underworld of Meth and a Father's Fight to Bring Her Back" and is actually written by the father and daughter, Ron and Carren Clem, of the title. The book tells the harrowing story of a family nearly torn apart when their 15-year-old daughter becomes addicted to Meth. It's a tale full of ironies: Ron Clem was himself a former LA cop and narcotics expert, and the family had moved to rural Montana in large part because of its wholesome atmosphere. But what's most remarkable about the book is that we have the rare opportunity to hear the story from both the point of view of a teenager so desperate to feed her habit that she's turned to stealing, dealing and even prostitution – and a father so intent on saving her that he literally risks everything to do so.

    The book will be available at local stores and online booksellers like Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. This is really an amazing book, brutally honest in it's portrayal of what can happen to even the "best" of families. But the fact that Carren Clem ultimately is able to come clean and resume her life (she now works in Yellowstone National Park) offers a true message of hope and makes the book a must-read for anyone grappling with similar issues. At least that's the way I felt after reading it.

    We'd love if you'd let others you think might find the book interesting/useful know about it; perhaps you’d consider sending out something to your listserve or posting something on your website or blog. And if you’d like to include an image of the book cover – or have any questions – please feel free to email me at: [email protected]

    Thanks for your help. Best regards, Guenther Krumminga/Virgin Books USA

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