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Dr. Carl Hart on Drug Use in the Pursuit of Happiness
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Episode 11
Dr. Carl Hart on Drug Use in the Pursuit of Happiness
Talking with psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart, author of Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear.

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YNINOK-011 ~ Dr. Carl Hart

Mon, 5/17 11:33AM • 42:58


people, drug, carl, diane, opioids, decriminalization, drug war, dying, heroin, stigmatize, problem, madras, conversation, mdma, community, cocaine, bertha, addicted, person, mmhmm


Dr. Carl Hart, Diane Guerrero

Diane Guerrero 00:00

Just a head's up that we are not clinical experts and, if you need professional help, there will be some links and resources listed in the podcast description, as well as in our newsletter which you can sign up to receive at In the first episode of this podcast, I spoke with my brother about his relationship with drugs and mental health. Now, many of you have reached out about my conversation with my brother, saying I was overbearing or too hard on him, I was too preachy, and you're not wrong. And, ever since that conversation, I have wanted to do better by him and by you, our listeners. What most people don't know is that I was inspired to even have that conversation with my brother because of the work of Dr. Carl Hart. Carl, he told me to call him Carl. Carl, he is a psychologist, neuroscientist, an author, and a Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. His groundbreaking work has been about more accurately measuring drugs and their relationship to the human condition. So, I was hopeful that we could have Carl on to talk about how I could have been better in that conversation with my brother. And, graciously, he listened to that conversation and this is what he had to say: "The most important component of treatment is that the willing individual, no one should be coerced, first receives a comprehensive assessment. The assessment will identify factors that drive the addiction. In that way, treatment can be tailored to best serve the individual." The step I skipped with my brother was assessment. But, you see that's the thing. I didn't know these steps. No one knows these steps. I ask you that you listen to this interview carefully. Allow it to challenge what you believe, and look at the evidence that clearly shows us that criminalization and incarceration do not help our society deal with drug use. Dr. Carl, it is an honor to have you here with me and talking to our audience on Yeah, No, I'm Not Okay. Welcome. Welcome.

Dr. Carl Hart 02:32

Thank you for having me. But, please just call me Carl. {chuckles}

Diane Guerrero 02:35

Sorry. This entire week, I was like Dr. Carl, Dr. Carl and, like, researching you, and hearing your TED talks, and reading your book. Yes, Carl, thank you so much for being here. I just want to dive right in. I have so many questions and I want our listeners to have as much of your wisdom as possible. So, please tell me what drew you into drug research?

Dr. Carl Hart 03:02

I guess I started studying drugs in the late 80s, early 90s. And the thing that really brought me into this thing was the whole crack cocaine epidemic or the so-called epidemic. It really wasn't an epidemic but our history, the way we think about this, is like it was an epidemic. But the point is, is that I thought that crack was destroying communities like the one from which I came. And so I thought, "Well, how can I best serve the community." And so, I went to school, got an undergraduate degree in psychology and a PhD in neuroscience, with the hopes of being able to learn how to alter the brain's functioning and its response to cocaine in order to help people who are suffering from cocaine addiction. That's how I originally came to this area.

Diane Guerrero 03:49

And what inspired you to come out as a recreational drug user? I know that there's a lot of stigma with that. So like, what... what really got you to say f**k it and, and be honest about what you were going through?

Dr. Carl Hart 04:04

Yeah, so after about 30 years of studying, I started to see the hypocrisy. I had traveled all around the world, had been to five different continents, hung out with famous people, politicians, captains of industry, and all of these people were getting high, including me. 'Cause, you know, they offered me some things and then it's like, we were all in the closet while these other people are suffering. They're being stigmatized for their drug use. And so I thought, "What kind of man am I? What kind of adult am I if I'm allowing other people to suffer for doing exactly what I'm doing? And so, that's what really motivated me to get out of the closet. And also, I was inspired by, like, the gay rights movement, where folks got out of the closet and things changed. And so, I figured that if I wanted some real change, then I have to emulate the actions of that community as well.

Diane Guerrero 05:04

In your book, Drug Use for Grownups, you talk about how 70% of drug users do not meet the description for a drug addict. Can you talk about why you believe the word addict is so harmful?

Dr. Carl Hart 05:17

Yeah, the word addict, it's harmful because it... it supposes that that is the essence of that person, their drug addiction. And that's all that person is. And, of course, people are a lot more complicated than that. And that's not the totality of their being. And so, when we label somebody a drug addict, then that allows us to dismiss them and not recognize their humanity. And so, that's why it becomes problematic mainly for me.

Diane Guerrero 05:49

And what qualifies as a recreational user?

Dr. Carl Hart 05:53

Well, when I use the term recreational user... By the way, it's not the best term, [Diane: I see.] but I use the term because I don't have a better one. I just mean someone who is using a drug or something else, meeting all of their obligations, they don't have a problem. We use the term drug addict to describe someone who's having a problem with their... with their drug use, and that person is also distressed by their drug use. And so, oftentimes in our society, we only say, 'oh, that person is using a drug. So, therefore, they're an addict'. That's not how the DSM, which is the medical sort of definition, the DSM does not describe addiction in that way. DSM describe... describes addiction as people who are having their sort of important life functions disrupted by their drug use, and they are distressed by this. So, we can imagine people who are having some life disruptions or some disruptions in their functioning, but they're okay. When I say functioning, I mean, say like, you have important social or family obligations that you are no longer going to because you would prefer to use drugs, or, uhm... We can think about under the Trump administration, we had, I don't know, holiday dinners where people refused to go because they had family members who were Trump supporters. That's a disruption in family sort of functioning. But, I wouldn't be distressed by that. And I would much rather do some cocaine or heroin and MDMA, and then the hang out with people talking about Trump or... [Diane: Right] And so, if someone is saying that, 'oh, you're an addict because of that', that's wrong. But that's why the DSM definition is two parts. You have these disruptions and the person is distressed by that sort of... by those disruptions.

Diane Guerrero 07:43

Why do you think that so many responsible adults engage in drug use?

Dr. Carl Hart 07:49

Uh, I think a lot of responsible adults engage in drug use because, s**t, drugs work. We think about drugs like MDMA, and we think about intimate partners and so forth. MDMA is really good in terms of enhancing empathy, understanding, openness. All of those things are really good qualities for a relationship. That's one reason people use them. Other reasons that people use them, you could think about the... I don't know, a band, a celebrity who has all of these demands placed on their time, and then they have something like cocaine or an amphetamine to help them get through the day. That's functional, we completely understand that. Just like the person who uses caffeine for that purpose. Uh, then, so we can think about also people who are subjected to, I don't know, faculty receptions like me. It's boring as s**t, most of 'em. And so it's like a little heroin or some other stimulant. Oh, it makes it a lot better. So it's rational. And so, when we think about drug use in the movies, we oftentimes think about drug use as being irrational and, oftentimes, it's not irrational. It's as rational as any other behavior in which we engage. So, when we think about it from that perspective, then we're less likely to stigmatize people, vilify people and, the ones who need help, they're more likely to seek out help as long as we're not stigmatizing them, and vilifying them, and criticizing them.

Diane Guerrero 09:22

What are some of the mental health benefits? Can you name some?

Dr. Carl Hart 09:26

Uh, mental health benefits we can think about? Oh, let's just think about somebody who's suffering from anxiety. They take something like a benzodiazepine, Xanax or Valium. We can see how those drugs can decrease anxiety. Heroin, for example, opioids, they do the same thing. Opioids can also improve depression. Other drugs, like cocaine also... and elevates your mood. And so, you can see these mental health benefits at... but then people say, 'Well, there's always a downside'. Certainly, there can be a downside and that downside has a lot to do with how we regulate drugs and how we stigmatize drugs. And so, people are vilified for doing cocaine, and then they feel bad about themselves because society has told them that you are doing something that we don't approve of. Yeah, of course, we feel bad but, when we take something like alcohol -- also has mental health benefits; can decrease anxiety -- we don't feel this bad because that behavior is sanctioned by the society. And so, if these other drugs were sanctioned by society, people were taught how to do them, we probably wouldn't have as much of this downside as we do see in our society.

Diane Guerrero 10:48

Right. I think about those times where, where I have engaged in drinking, or partying or drug use, and I can be fine. You know, I've had a great night. My... I've had many wonderful moments where I've had a chance to be honest and speak my truth, if you will, and maybe some disapproving eye says something to me. Perhaps a friend comes up to me and says, 'You shouldn't be doing that.' And like, 'Don't you know that that has damaging effects on your brain?' Or like, 'Don't you know that that's bad. You, you may not be able to have children.'. Immediately, that is what changes my mood, makes me feel terrible about myself, I can't sleep, then I'm feeling... I'm feeling horrible. So, now I'm wondering, 'Well, was it the drug that made me sad, or was it this terrible, like, villainization of my character that made me feel terrible?' And so I've, I've sort of... I can relate to those moments where I've been very confused about whether I should or should have not. And, especially, because I felt like I was safe, I felt like I wasn't doing anything terrible, I wasn't harming myself but, because of people's opinions, my mood deteriorated quickly. Uhm, and so I was kind of, you know, maybe a little... a little lost until the next time I felt like I wanted to do it again and, then, now I felt like I couldn't be honest about it. So, I, I... reading your book made me make so many connections to what was really going on with drug use and made me stop villainizing myself. Is that a word, villainizing? Can I say that? {laughs}

Dr. Carl Hart 12:37

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Diane Guerrero 12:38

But, if 70% of drug users are able to do it casually and for fun, that means there is a percentage of people who do end up abusing substances. In your book, you place that number at around 10 to 30%. How do we help them?

Dr. Carl Hart 12:56

Yeah, that's an important thing, you know, the 10 to 30%, who may express drug addiction or have a substance use disorder. What that tells us is that the vast majority of people who use drugs don't have a problem. And it tells us that, well, if the majority of people don't have a problem, then we have to look beyond the drug itself for the people who do have a problem. And, when you start to look beyond the drug itself, now you can start getting at what the real issues are for these people. We know that, for example, some people have co-occurring psychiatric illnesses, like depression, anxiety, even schizophrenia, and other psychiatric illnesses or problems that need to be treated. And in many cases, they are trying to treat those sort of illnesses. And so if we properly treat those folks, then we can see that the addiction itself will go away. That's certainly a group of people who are having problems. Another group of people who are having problems... Uh, you may have people, for example, who have had gainful employment that put them in the middle class, they were taking care of their family, they were someone in their community, they were happy with life and, now, that gainful employment is gone and it's hard to find a job that can take care of their family in the manner in which they are accustomed to. Those people are now more susceptible to getting in trouble with drugs and a number of other things. And so, we say, "Well, what... how can we help them?" Make sure they are gainfully employed. You... We can help them in that way. Then you have another group of people who... you can think about the celebrity, who's a young person, and they have all of these responsibilities heaped on them. Like, taking care of their extended family, everybody's depending upon them, they have to be perfect, and they also have to grow up--they're developing themselves. Sometimes drugs can make people feel good and they don't... are not equipped with the... to deal with all of the things that are coming with them. So, in that case, how about we stop heaping unrealistic expectation on people and we try to make sure those people are taken care of. Now, you may not have a much... as much of a problem. And you also laid out this issue of people who are being pushed into the shadows, having to hide what they're doing, had... having to be dishonest, which causes one a great deal of distress, particularly if they are tuned in to the socio, sociological norms. And so, if we stop pushing people into the shadows, that would help a lot of people. And so, there are a wide range of reasons why people are addicted, but the... but we have to look beyond the drugs themselves and we have to look at the person and the millieu on, in which the person is operating if we really want to help the person.

Diane Guerrero 16:09

After the break, how Dr. Carl responds to the naysayers. Carl, I want to talk about some of the counter arguments that have been presented against you. Dr. Bertha Madras, who's a Professor of Psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, was quoted in a New York Times piece about you and your work. And she said, "You don't ignore the adverse consequences -- the parents, the families, the spouses who have had to live and deal with opioid use disorder. Traffic fatalities, workplace errors, absenteeism, workman's compensation, drug fueled violence, school dropouts, drug-related crimes and murders. I just don't see Carl ever wanting to address these things." What do you say to that?

Dr. Carl Hart 17:15

Uhm... I say, Bertha, Madras, her ignorance is only surpassed by those people who listen to her. [Diane: Mmhmm] Uh, if anybody looks at my career, they know that all I've been writing about are the people who are catching hell, people who are being, uh, victims of this drug war, people who are in jail, people who are dying. For example, I don't know if you know this rapper -- well, he's dead now, but his name was ASAP Yams -- Steven Rodriguez. He died from what appears to be an opioid-related overdose death. His mom reached out to me, and I helped her write an op-ed about the situation. It seems like he died from combining opioids with other sedatives. Like, he had a benzodiazepine in his system, he had opioid, he had antihistamine in his system. And he was a fan of this thing called syrup or that purple, purple drank, which has an opioid, an antihistamine and a benzodiazepine. All of that increases the likelihood of respiratory depression. And so, I advise people not to combine their opioids with other sedatives because you increase the likelihood of overdose. I've written about this extensively. And so, when people like Bertha Madras makes these comments, it infuriates me because I have never heard her talk about people who are locked up for our drug laws [Diane: Right] and the disproportionate ratio of arrests that we have with these... with our drug laws. I've never heard her come... I've never heard... seen her write anything on this sort of thing. And so one of the things that really irritates me is people like Bertha Madras. She was actually the Deputy Drug Czar in this country for some time. Now, if they really cared about people who are dying, we know that a large percentage of people who are dying from overdose they do so because they have tainted drug. Right. Let's think about somebody like Prince. Prince thought that he had oxycodone when, in fact, he had fentanyl. When you take fentanyl in doses that you will take oxycodone, you increase the likelihood of dying from overdoses. He didn't know what he had in his pill. That's an easy fix. We can have these things called drug checking facilities like they have in Austria, like they have in Spain, like they have in the Netherlands, like they have around the world except in the United States. Bertha Madras, in her position, could have advocated for these sorts of facilities to be available for American citizens and we would have saved tens of thousands of Americans from dying. And so, when she makes some criticism of me, it's a joke. It's a joke that she even has airspace, that she even has some credibility.

Diane Guerrero 20:21

You know, Carl, through your work, I've been able to see that instead of demonizing my brother and his drug use, and parroting decades of institutionalized stigma, we could have been addressing his pain. What are some of the ways that we can be allies to people dealing with uncertainty about their relationship with drugs?

Dr. Carl Hart 20:46

First of all, like, the sad state is that... and I've had people in my family who have had problems with their relationship with drugs, and they may have needed help and treatment. But frankly, I'm an expert in this area, I don't know where to send them in the United States. [Diane: Mmhmm] That's how little I think about treatment in this country. [Diane: Yeah] And so, now I'm living between the US and Switzerland because I don't like how we treat our citizens, and the Swiss they got... they have it right. When they put people in treatment, you get a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an internist, a nurse, a social worker, they make sure you have housing. Your basic needs are taken care of. If people's basic needs are taken care of, number one, then that means that they're gonna live to fight another day. That's the most important thing. And now we think about their drug use. Okay. Alright, in some of the sort of Swiss programs, you actually receive the drug, your drug of choice, like heroin. And so, it's like, that's not so we don't really care about that sort of thing. As long as you are healthy first, long as you're happy. That's what they care about. Now, when you want to stop, we want to be here to help support you and, and we have all of these professionals on your treatment team to help you. I don't know where there's a program in the United States that does that sort of thing. And so when people have a problem, and they need help in this country, and they come to me, I certainly try to support their decisions first and not be judgmental so that, no matter what happens, they're not afraid to come to me. And so I can make sure that they live to fight another day. That's my goal number one. And I'm not so concerned about them stopping the drug use. I am concerned about them getting arrested, I'm concerned about them getting tainted drug, I'm concerned about all of these things that you don't have to worry about in Switzerland. And so if we want to go about helping people, we make sure that they don't have those concerns -- arrests, receiving tainted drug, having to be pushed off into the shadows. My home is a sanctuary. That's the kind of thing that I tried to encourage people to do. We are a long way in the United States from treating people with autonomy, with respect when they're using drugs because we have been given... we've been given permission to dismiss people if they report using specific types of drug. Oh, a heroin user? You can dismiss them. Methamphetamine user? You can dismiss 'em. How about Ayahuasca (DMT)? Well, no, maybe not. That's the middle class, sort of white drug. That's okay. Some cannabis? Yeah, now that's okay. And so we have to stop this sort of exceptionalism, drug exceptionalism, and we have to treat people in the same way in which we treat Ayahuasca users. More power to them. I am... If that's your thing, how can we help to keep you safe? If you're into cannabis, how can we help keep you safe? The same is true with heroin or methamphetamine. How can we help to keep you safe, such that you are pursuing your happiness, your life without disrupting other people's ability to do to same.

Diane Guerrero 24:30

What do you think is the best way for us to deprogram that shame that society has spent generations enacting towards drug use?

Dr. Carl Hart 24:40

Well, I think you're doing it. I mean, with your show, this conversation, other conversations, we call people out when they are vilifying other people for simply what they put in their bodies. This is... we have to... we have to be out of the closet, out of the shadows, and we have to be loud, and we have to stand up for other people's rights. That's what our Declaration of Independence is all about -- standing up for other people's right, other people's autonomy in this sort of way that is fearless and unapologetic.

Diane Guerrero 25:16

Is there something we can do at a policy level here?

Dr. Carl Hart 25:20

At the policy level, it's really a waste of time for most of us. Certainly, a waste of my time. The people are the ones who dictate policy, because the policy makers will go where the people go. I mean, we see this with cannabis. It wasn't the policymakers who started this, sort of, openness and this liberalizing of cannabis policy. It was the people. The people voted in Colorado, Washington first, and other states have since come online. But, it started with the people. When we start with the politicians, we're wasting our time. So, I try not to talk to politicians because most politicians are... they are only moved by votes and money and they are not...they're not going to put themselves out on a limb for anyone unless you have a lot of money, or you bring a lot of votes. That's, that's what they're moved by. And so what I have tried to do is educate the general population, to show the general population that it is ridiculous to be putting people in jail or vilifying people for what they put in their bodies. And I try to remind people what the Declaration of Independence says. It guarantees all of us at least three birthrights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That means that we can live our life how we see fit, as long as we don't prevent others from doing the same. That's what it means. And so, if you're not doing that, and you're vilifying somebody, that means you're not American and we have to call people out. Like, that is wholly unAmerican to be going after these people for what they're putting in their bodies, and they're not messing with anyone.

Diane Guerrero 27:18

After the break, how some countries are improving drug policy. So Carl, how can the United States learn from places like Switzerland, and Spain, and Portugal when it comes to drug policy?

Dr. Carl Hart 27:41

I think that when we go to some states... Like, we go to a state like Maine and Vermont, states that are heavily, predominantly white, they are essentially doing a lot of what they're doing in Switzerland. But, when you come to states that have more racial diversity, you don't get this sort of thing because, in those states, we don't see many of those people as our brothers and sisters. [Diane: Mmhmm] And so, we have to call this out. And we have to also keep pointing to the fact that Switzerland is not having an overdose crisis, Portugal is not having an overdose crisis, and they have more liberalized drug laws than we do. So... What's going on there? We have to point this out as much as possible when people, like Bertha Madras, are saying the ridiculous things that they say. If you really care about Americans, then what do you suggest? How do you suggest we solve this problem? Now, if they're talking about restricting your rights, and then that... that's not gonna work. That's... I mean, the... Number one, we have to treat adults like adults. And, if you're not talking about treating adults like adults, that's not gonna work. Nobody wants to live in a world like that. [Diane: No.]

Diane Guerrero 29:00

You know, drug use is currently criminalized and stigmatized. And you see it in the way that they're painting George Floyd as someone who died from benzos and opioids, rather than murdered by the police. From Daunte Wright, who is being painted as a marijuana criminal, rather than murdered by police. And I even saw it with my brother, at a young age, was branded by our community as a drug addict because of his recreational use. What can we do to help improve the lives of those disproportionately affected by the drug carceral system, specifically in the black and brown community?

Dr. Carl Hart 29:42

Yeah, you know, I think about George Floyd. I wrote a couple pieces, one in the New York Times and one in Vox recently, showing that the drugs that he had in his system had nothing to do with his death. But, yet and still, the police, they are using that as a scapegoat. We think about poor Daunte Wright. This poor kid lost his life because of some cop's mistake. Mistake is in quotes. [Diane: Mistake. Right.] But, the thing is we have to get police out of the business of drug law enforcement. Until we get the police out of that business, we're going to see Black and Brown bodies disproportionately subjugated and harmed by overpolicing in the drug war. We have to def... defund the drug war. The drug war, in effect, function as the jobs program, particularly for less, well-educated white males. They're hired as cops, they're hired as prison officers, they're hired in this, this industry because we don't have other jobs for them. We let GM leave the country leave. We let these other factories leave the country, and we wonder why the economy is not doing as well. And we wonder why we need a drug war. We need a drug war to function as a jobs program for particularly those, sort of, less, well-educated white males. And that's what it is. And so let's call it what it is. We hire more police in this drug war effort. We need to pull the police out of the drug war. Until we do that, we're gonna continue to have tragedies in communities like the one from which I come from. [Diane: Mmhmm]

Diane Guerrero 31:38

If there was one misconception that you could correct through your work, what would it be?

Dr. Carl Hart 31:46

The majority of people who use drugs are addicted. That's the biggest misconception. As we talked about earlier, most people are not addicted who use drugs. Another misconception is that things like heroin -- one hit -- you're addicted, or things like methamphetamine -- a few hits, you're addicted. Addiction, by definition, requires work. In the definition, it says repeated administration causes repeated problem. And so, this notion that one hit you're addicted, that is just silly.

Diane Guerrero 32:20

Why can't we have legalization without decriminalization?

Dr. Carl Hart 32:26

Oh, yeah, that's a great one. Uhm, so a number of people (liberals, non-thinking liberals), they support this, sort of, notion of decriminalization thinking that it's progressive. I once supported decriminalization, thinking that it was progressive. In my last book, I supported decriminalization. I wasn't as hip as I am now. [Diane: Mmhmm] So decriminalization, number one, does nothing for tainted substances. I worry that people are having problems and dying because of getting contaminated or tainted substance. That's what all of the evidence shows. Decriminalization does nothing for that. It doesn't ensure that the supply of drugs are safe, it doesn't ensure a quality control, and so we still have people dying. So, decriminalization is... falls short there. Another area it falls for short in is arrests. Particularly, of Black and Brown people. We can think about a place like Baltimore. We can just go around the country, but Baltimore is a great example. In 2014, they decriminalized marijuana possession. So you could have marijuana possession and, supposedly you weren't going to be arrested or go to jail. Between 2015 and 2017, they arrested more than 1500 people, and 96% of those people arrested were Black, even though Black people don't make up that larger percentage of the city of Baltimore. It just goes to show that police still have discretion, and they still will disproportionately arrest racial minorities -- Black and Brown people. And so, decriminalization doesn't do anything for those two major problems. That's why I'm a proponent for legal regulation. When we think about legal regulation, we have to think about it in comparison to decriminalization. Legal regulation is exactly what we're doing with alcohol, tobacco and, in some states, with cannabis. You can purchase it from a place that there is... you can be sure that the product that you have has been tested for quality control. So, it's exactly like we were doing with alcohol, cannabis and tobacco. Whereas decriminalization, you cannot purchase the subject... the substance legally without running afoul of the law. And so, therefore, you have to rely on the black market to receive your substance of choice.

Diane Guerrero 34:59

I know you've been doing this work for quite some time. What makes you hopeful about the future?

Dr. Carl Hart 35:07

Young people make me hopeful about the future. Uh, it's been lovely being in this country. Like, last summer, summer 2020, with all the protests, young people, Black Lives Matter. All of these young people are being so active. And they're... I mean, the me too. Movement. They're calling people out on things that we just let go on forever. So, young people are calling us all on our bulls**t. And so I'm loving that, and I'm being inspired by that, and I'm trying to make sure that I'm on the right side in my area. Because I know they're going to look back at my work and be like, "Yo, you dropped the ball here." And that's okay. I'm here for it, and I'm trying to get better, and I think that they're making us all better.

Diane Guerrero 35:59

Absolutely. I, I feel... It's so funny. I was like... Well, you know, I had the conversation with my brother. That was like, that was my first step, right, in talking about all this. And I did the podcast, and then... and then I, you know, did more research on your book, and I was like, "S**t!" I'm, like... I've learned so much in just, like, a few days after the... after the talk. Right? But, you know, we have the opportunity to grow. All of this information is out there. The research is out there. We need to just put it on ourselves to do it and to continue having more conversations about this. I'm so grateful for your work and, believe me, Carl, you are on the right side of history, and you are with us, and we are with you. As far as what you were saying earlier, are there any organizations in your perspective that are doing good work, like to help push forward your ideas, or at least forward any policy around legalization?

Dr. Carl Hart 37:00

MAPS {Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedlic Studies}. MAPS is an organization that has been pushing for liberalizing drug laws, and they've also been pushing to bring drugs like MDMA to the market for therapy to help people get over PTSD, and they published a lot of papers in this area. Their chief or their executive director is this guy called Rick Doblin. He's been doing this work for 35 years, maybe more. One of the most optimistic people I've ever met, always has a smile on his face, always can see the, sort of, positive side of an issue. I think MAPS are... they're doing a really good job. The Drug Policy Alliance. I'm hoping that they continue. They're sort of historical. They were, uh... Historically, they were pushing the envelope but, in recent years, they've kind of fallen off. So, I'm hoping that they get back in the game with their new leadership, Kassandra Frederique. So, I'm hoping that they push the envelope more.

Diane Guerrero 38:14

This is such a great conversation and it's... like, it's so motivating for me to have this and for our listeners who are interested also in, in... in ending these, these lies and these hypocrisies, you know, and this so-called drug war. Because we know, really, who this is affecting and who's, who is really benefiting from it. What can our listeners do to help themselves, and their loved ones, and their communities that are most affected by our... how our society looks at and deals with drugs?

Dr. Carl Hart 38:53

Yeah, I would hope your listeners read Drug Use For Grownups. I mean, that's a nice place to start, or read something that I've written that's on the internet that's free, you know, if you can't afford. Or write to me. I'll be happy to send you this. But, that's a good place to start 'cause you can see where the hypocrisy began. And it's not a new drug war. Some people would point to 1971, but it's at the turn of the 20th century in the early 1900s, and it's always been fought in order to control Black and Brown bodies. [Diane: Mmhmm] Not because we were afraid of drugs, but it was because we were afraid of these people who were Black and Brown. And so, when people get an understanding of who we are as Americans, I hope we are ashamed at some level, and proud at other levels, and try to make sure that we bring our drug policy in alignment with, with who we think we are -- people who care about other individuals.

Diane Guerrero 39:59

Well, Carl, I'm so happy that... that I found, that I found you. I have to say that for me, personally, you have made my life better. You have helped me understand so much of what I had questions about because the, the... the rhetoric that was out there, what I had learned about drug use, was completely false and was making me run around with my head cut off. And it did not allow me to help my family members who were distressed with drugs, and it didn't help me speak about this in a way that was healthy for me, and also my community. So, I thank you for your work. I... I'm gonna continue following you. I'm gonna do everything that I can to continue supporting these conversations to help destigmatize, decriminalize and devillainize our people. So, thank you.

Dr. Carl Hart 40:53

Well, please reach out anytime. But I'm here for you. You know you are a soul sister, so I'm here for you. Thank you, Carl. What a lovely conversation. Thank you so much.

Diane Guerrero 41:17

Yeah, No, I'm Not Okay is a production of LAist Studios. Remember to rate and review our show. I just found out that it helps other people find it. So, if you like it, share it with your friends. The more people we can get to have conversations about mental health, the better. If you've got a story you want to share about how you deal with mental health issues, send it my way. Record it on your phone's voice memo app and email it to And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest episodes with a note from me, recommendations from our listeners and our team, and listener stories. Sign up at Jessica Pilot is our talent manager and producer. Our executive producers our Leo G. and me, Diane Guerrero. Web design by Andy Cheatwood at the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including Taylor Coffman, Kristin Hayford, Kristen Muller, Michael Consentino, Robert Jo, Mildred Langford and Leo G. And a special thanks to Brian Crawford. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Additional support comes from the Angel Foundation, supporting transformational leaders, and by the California Health Care Foundation, dedicated to improving the mental health care system for all Californians.