Have you seen the commercials that
say, “Don’t text and drive”? It’s as simple
as that. If you use heroin, don’t combine
it with alcohol because you increase the
likelihood of overdose. It’s simple, that’s it.
As scientists, we’re all concerned
about education. Not to give people the
proper amount and kind of education
seems woefully irresponsible.
What about for the small
percentage of people who do
become addicted because of their
own brain chemistry or outside
forces? What does the research
say we should be doing for them?
You treat the problem in the same
way that you treat any other medical
problem. You follow the best advice of
experts. Our work shows that attractive
alternative reinforcers can help some
people with addiction. Other work
shows the importance of making sure
that you have treated the co-occurring
psychiatric disorder that may be
People are addicted for a variety
of reasons. Experts need to figure
out what those reasons are, and then
have the appropriate treatment that’s
Think about driving an automobile.
There are people who get in trouble
with driving an automobile because they
drink and drive, text and drive, drive
too fast — whatever they do. We have
interventions to help those people, to
make our society safer. But we don’t ban
driving for the rest of us, yet that’s what
we do with drugs.
So I’m only saying, let’s be rational.
Let’s get people the help they need, but
do that in a smart, scientific way.
What’s next for your own
I’m interested in drug combinations
right now. Often times in my field, my
area, we look at one drug at a time. I’m
now trying to figure out what happens
when people take multiple drugs, like
they do in the natural ecology.
One last question: A lot of what
makes your book so compelling
is your personal story about
your difficult childhood and
adolescence. Why did you decide
to write about that, and why now?
I know how important narratives are for
people to be engaged. I have read enough
boring science books in my life to know
that you’re not going to keep people’s
attention too long. That was one reason.
Another reason — and this caused
me a great deal of anxiety — was that I
wanted people to understand that I was
not perfect, I made a lot of mistakes,
and continue to, by the way. But there
is this American mythology that if you
are successful, you are perfect, and
somehow don’t have these warts. We do
our young people such a disservice with
that kind of thing. I wanted them to see
that you can make mistakes and still be
“Think about driving an automobile. There are people who
get in trouble with driving an automobile because they
drink and drive, text and drive, drive too fast — whatever
they do. We have interventions to help those people, to
make our society safer. But we don’t ban driving for the
rest of us, yet that’s what we do with drugs.”
To watch a Google talk with Dr. Carl Hart go to