Carl Hart, On Meth
Written by Bwog Staff
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.