Crack and meth addicts probably aren't as addicted as you think

Addiction — in the neuro-biological can't-get-enough-dopamine sense — might not be as powerful as pop culture would have us believe. A Columbia University psychology researcher has found that only about 20% of meth and crack users actually end up physiologically addicted. And, even those people are capable of making rational choices — including denying themselves a hit of their drug-of-choice in favor of a delayed monetary award. Based on his research, Carl Hart believes that drug use is merely a symptom of a life that's gone awry for other, more systemic, reasons.

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  1. And we could have all known this in 1980 if we'd paid any attention to Rat Park

  2. But that carries the grim potential that we might have to stop pretending that we can solve addicts if only we punish them for being bad people hard enough. That would undo decades of shared American Values going back to St. Reagan himself!

  3. Well, I'll try to find more fun ways to say it. But I can only stop saying it when it stops being true.

  4. Did I spark this renewed interest in the subject? Doesn't matter, I guess, I am glad to see it regardless.

    I noticed when I was a little kid that nearly everyone I saw was clearly addicted to something - cigarettes, coffee, alcohol, gambling, whatever. But the official narrative was "addicts will do anything - ANYTHING to get their fix! Addiction removes the moral centers and you can't trust an addict, they'll shoot you just to sell your shoes!" which didn't really jibe with any reality I could see. In the reality I inhabited, morality and addict status weren't strongly linked; there was a pretty strong link was between desperate acts and desperate poverty, but even that wasn't the 100% correspondence that government propaganda claimed existed between amoral behavior and addiction.

  5. They're testing the effects of crack. They're giving that crack to people who'd already use it (it doesn't actually say, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had a drug test as part of the condition to entry and if you're not actually on crack already, you don't get in the study), in order to study it in a controlled way, with doses that are the same every time (or vary with the specific outline of the experiment).

    "Pharmaceutical grade" probably simply means that it's actually crack cocaine, rather than cocaine mixed with baby powder, salt, etc, or whatever drug dealers do to make crack cheaper to sell at the expense of safety for the user and quality of the experience. Again, for science, that makes it controlled constant, rather than a widely variable variable, as it'd necessarily be if you just let crack addicts get their own crack (likewise, the amounts of crack they use would also be widely variable, and you couldn't tell whether the differences between patient A and patient B were because whatever you were testing for has changed, or whether patient A just has a much better dealer).

    Again, how else would you propose to scientifically investigate the effects of crack use? Or should we just put it in a lockbox and never study it systematically, and just do anecdotal observational guesses?

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