HIGH PRICE: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society

Press Release May 13, 2013
Media Contact

<p>Heather N. Drucker<br />
212-207-7468<br />
[email protected]</p>
<p>Tony Newman<br />

“A hard-hitting attack on current drug policy by Hart (Psychology and Psychiatry/Columbia Univ.), a neuroscientist who grew up on the streets of one of Miami's toughest neighborhoods. … Hart debunks claims that the use of crack cocaine is more dangerous than other forms of the drug and therefore should be punished more severely—a distinction that penalizes ghetto users who are the most typical crack users.  . . . . Reflecting on his experiences growing up in the ghetto, Hart realized that social environment was as important as the availability of street drugs. . . . An eye-opening, absorbing, complex story of scientific achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.”
Kirkus Reviews, *Starred Review*

“Combining memoir, popular science, and public policy, Hart’s study lambasts current drug laws as draconian and repressive, arguing that they’re based more on assumptions about race and class than on a real understanding of the physiological and societal effects of drugs.  . .. .  His is a provocative clarion call for students of sociology and policy-makers alike.”
Publishers Weekly

“ . . . A refreshing new analysis of drug use that reveals how common misconceptions about illegal drugs are far too often not based on empirical evidence.  . . . .VERDICT : Hart manages to add to the voluminous drug abuse genre a radically new approach that is thought-provoking and that will certainly stimulate controversial opinions, especially among the drug abuse treatment profession. He succeeds in presenting an interesting blend of personal memoir with a critical analysis of why drugs and drug users are shunned, the role racial policies have played in this perception, and how these misperceptions have resulted in current drug fighting approaches he views as counterproductive. Hart’s personal life experience adds credibility to this important work on substance abuse that is essential for all university libraries supporting treatment curriculum and treatment professionals.”
Library Journal, *Starred Review*


When the United States intensified its War on Drugs in the mid-1980s, the media, government policy, police forces and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign all painted the perils of drug use. Crack/cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and other illegal drugs were all blamed for increased murder rates, addiction, overdoses and a myriad of other problems plaguing the country’s urban areas. Growing up African American in one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods, Carl Hart, Ph.D. never questioned that crack may be the cause of his family’s and neighborhood’s problems with violence and abuse. But as he got older, he decided to further explore the truth behind illegal drugs—what long-term effects did they have? Were they as addictive as he had heard?

His new book HIGH PRICE: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers; $26.99/ $34.99 Can.; Hardcover; ISBN 13: 9780062015884; On-sale: June 11, 2013), is based on 22 years of research as a groundbreaking neuropsychopharmacologist about the study and science of drug addiction, but it is also a provocative and eye-opening memoir where he recalls his journey of self-discovery, how he avoided a life of crime and drugs and avoided becoming one of the crack addicts he now studies.  Carefully culling through past studies and his own research, Hart goes beyond the hype as he examines the relationship between drugs and pleasure, choice, and motivation, both in the brain and in society. His findings shed new light on common ideas about race, poverty, and drugs and explain why current policies are failing.  Hart argues that the stories we have all grown up hearing about the dangers of drugs and their responsibility for ruining the lives of many users are just plain wrong.

Weaving together both real-life examples from his personal history, as well as scientific knowledge of the human mind, brain and behavior, Hart shows that our government policies towards drugs, starting with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 are reactive and punitive, but based little on fact. “Much of what we are doing in terms of drug education, treatment, and public policy is inconsistent with scientific data,” writes Hart. “In order to come to terms with what I have seen in the lab and read in the scientific literature, there is nothing else to do but speak out.” Research has repeatedly shown that only 10-15% of illegal drug users are truly addicted to the substance, but we readily blame illicit drugs for social problems like crime and domestic violence – issues that as Hart’s own past shows exist beyond any substance abuse.

Sure to be controversial and thought-provoking, HIGH PRICE is a call for a change in how we think about and define illegal drugs and the people that use them. It is also a fascinating memoir of one man’s achievement of success against all odds.  With HIGH PRICE, Hart takes the important first step towards re-educating the American public about drugs, separating the real potential dangers from salacious fable.


Dr. Carl Hart, Ph.D., 46, is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is also a Research Scientist in the Division of Substance Abuse at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Hart is a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse and on the board of directors of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence and the Drug Policy Alliance. After high school, the Miami, Florida native signed up for the US Air Force. He took university classes on the bases where he was stationed, and then went on to get his undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of Maryland (1991).  He completed his graduate training in experimental psychology and neuroscience at the University of Wyoming, where he received a M.S. (1994) and a Ph.D. (1996). Dr. Hart completed postdoctoral research training at the University of California at San Francisco, Yale University, and Columbia University.  For more on Dr. Hart, visit: http://www.highpricethebook.com/ and read a great feature on him in Wired UK Magazine: http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2010/02/features/carl-hart-the-drug-data-pusher

A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society
By Carl Hart, Ph.D.
Harper/HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN #: 978-0062015884
$26.99/$34.99 Can.; Hardcover; 352 pages
Publication date: June 11, 2013

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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