Addiction (Mostly) Isn’t Because of Drugs

Crack and meth aren’t nearly as addictive as they’ve been popularly made out to be, according to researcher Dr. Carl Hart:

If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure… The key factor is the environment, whether you’re talking about humans or rats. The rats that keep pressing the lever for cocaine are the ones who are stressed out because they’ve been raised in solitary conditions and have no other options. But when you enrich their environment, and give them access to sweets and let them play with other rats, they stop pressing the lever.

The scientific community has been heavily politicized in their drug findings:

Eighty to 90 percent of people are not negatively affected by drugs, but in the scientific literature, nearly 100 percent of the reports are negative. There’s a skewed focus on pathology. We scientists know that we get more money if we keep telling Congress that we’re solving this terrible problem. We’ve played a less than honorable role in the war on drugs.

This popular mythos about drugs as absolutely dangerous and instantaneously addictive, rather than as a symptom of broader socio-economic issues, informs the current Conservative government’s drug policies, from Stephen Harper’s comments on Vancouver’s fantastic Insite supervised community injection site, saying “We as a government will not use taxpayers’ money to fund drug use,”1 to staunchly opposing medical marijuana, despite all of the medical research and broad popular opinion to the contrary.

These policies aren’t simply about misinformation and ignorance. The image of the junkie evokes disgust, a distancing manoeuvre by the fortunate towards those who find themselves victimized by whatever roll of the cosmic racial, social, geographical, or economic dice they happen to find themselves born into.2 This is one of many reasons I really hope that we’re done with Harper.

  1. Harper’s audience here is, as always, people affluent enough to never have known the marginalization and lack of opportunities that characterize and predict addiction. 
  2. Yes, I know that the typical “conservative” response to this will prattle on about individual responsibility, and maybe point to wonderful examples of people born to privation that have managed to “make a life for themselves.” 

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