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Town Hall Seattle: Science Series

Town Hall’s Science series is dedicated to understanding the world around us. Whether we’re hearing from a legendary physicist or a UW graduate student, the Science series explores math, biology, chemistry, the environment, and so much more.

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Mar 1, 2022

Is it possible for drug use to be part of a responsible, balanced, and happy life? Dr. Carl L. Hart, a prominent neuroscientist and professor of psychology at Columbia University, believes so; but he didn’t always see it that way.

Dr. Hart grew up in Miami at a time when drugs like crack cocaine were blamed for his city’s problems. Initially, his research aimed to prove that drug use led to bad outcomes. But what he found was unexpected: the facts didn’t support the ideology, the truth was dismissed and distorted to keep fear and outrage stoked, and more Black and brown bodies ended up behind bars.

In his new book, Drug Use for Grown-UpsDr. Hart asserted that responsible drug use does more to enrich lives than to harm them. Based on personal experience and decades of research, he argued that criminalization and demonization of drug use — not the drugs themselves — are what caused negative outcomes and reinforced structural racism in America. Dr. Hart was joined in conversation with Professor Jennifer Oliva for a timely reflection on America’s war on drugs, the unjust stigmas that persist, and how we might develop a new vision of drug use.

Carl Hart is the Ziff Professor of Psychology in the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Columbia University. He is also a Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Hart has published numerous scientific and popular articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology and is co-author of the textbook Drugs, Society and Human Behavior. His book High Price was the 2014 winner of the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.

Jennifer D. Oliva is the Associate Dean for Faculty Research & Development and director of the Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law at Seton Hall Law, where she specializes in health law and policy, FDA law, privacy, evidence, and complex litigation. She also serves as a senior scholar with the O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law at Georgetown Law and on the National Pain Advocacy Center’s science and policy advisory council. Oliva is the recipient of multiple scholarly and professional awards and has served as a peer reviewer for numerous law and health journals. Her scholarship has been published by or is forthcoming in the California Law ReviewDuke Law Journal, and many others.

Buy the Book: Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear Third Place Books 

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