New Research Challenges Old Notions Of Drug Addiction

Crack? Not once, not ever. Just trying it can make you hopelessly addicted. You’ll steal from your family and beat up the old lady down the street for her social security check.

Drugs have always been demonized by sweeping social stigmas, working to paint all users as villains to be avoided and looked down upon, with all justifications rooted in science! Lab rats, when given the choice been self-administering crack/meth or food/water, chose hedonistic excess to their death every time.

This experiment has been used as evidence to prop up a notion of destroyed rationality, that with drug tinted lenses, users are entirely unable to make reasonable life decisions. Columbia University neuroscience professor Carl Hart believes, however, that this experiment was misinterpreted and poorly represents the context of real life. His own research, initially with rats and now with drug addicts, has begun to disprove previous findings and to further complicate ideas pervading drug addiction.

This wouldn’t be the first time that society's accepted messages about crack have been wrong. It used to be believed that a crack-using mother would cause irreparable harm to her baby’s future development. The study that set out to test how crack babies differed from children of comparable socio-economic standing found no significant developmental differences, and used its findings to propel a new study proving the existence of a “poverty effect” on child development.

“Children With In Utero Cocaine Exposure Do Not Differ From Control Subjects on Intelligence Testing”

Hallam Hurt, MD; Elsa Malmud, PhD; Laura Betancourt; Leonard E. Braitman, PhD; Nancy L. Brodsky, PhD; Joan Giannetta

I'm not saying that drug use is never problematic. Anything that alters human consciousness should be treated with caution and with a healthy respect. Clearly drug use can create social problems and exacerbate other underlying issues, but what I am arguing, as supported by these studies, is that problems related to drugs are typically symptomatic of larger societal problems.

Having government policies punitively hunt for drug users and distributers is like a doctor focusing exclusively on the cosmetic implications of a sickness instead of addressing the root. Systematic poverty, marginalization of users, stigmatization of addiction and lack of social responsibility contribute to the ultimate causes of addiction, inadvertently exacerbating the subsequent detriments addiction can cause.

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