Can brain science lead to more constructive drug policies?
Raised in an impoverished Miami neighborhood where drug use and crime were daily events, tenured neuroscientist Carl Hart studies the factors leading to the drug addictions he grew up seeing. While Hart once believed using neuroscience to end drug addiction could lower crime, his own data-driven conclusions decades later proved him—and many national drug policies—wrong.
Hart found that, if drug users are given attractive alternatives like money or merchandise vouchers, many choose not narcotics but cash, suggesting drugs alone do not cause crime. A lack of appealing choices, like financial stability, is a deeper problem than drugs in poor, often black communities. Hart’s research asks us in making drug laws to heed the linked injustices of poverty, unemployment, and racial criminalization, listening to the findings of science.
“People who look like me are often scapegoated more than others, and as a scientist who knows the facts about drugs, that’s very disturbing,” said Hart, who works to inform more equitable drug policies in challenging what we think we know about addiction.