The Independents

Heroin Epidemic? Not So Fast, Says Carl Hart


As has been amply covered here at Reason, there has been in recent months a spate of anxious news coverage about an allegedly "staggering" increase in heroin usage. On The Independents last night, Columbia University neuroscientist Carl Hart came on to put these stories in perspective, and debunk heroin's reputation as a uniquely hyper-addictive drug:

Reason on Carl Hart here, including this Reason TV video of a presentation Hart gave last year:

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  1. The first one is free, kid

  2. People don’t need drugs to do dangerous and stupid stuff…

    1. I’ve always wondered: Why do about 95% of car-related videos like that come out of Russia?

      1. They all have dash cams because of uninsured drivers, scam accidents and corrupt police.

        1. And because they get money from YouTube when their shit goes viral!

  3. I don’t believe there is a heroin epidemic. However, I currently have three acquaintances that are rapidly spiraling downward on heroin.

    1. I have seen that more than a few times, and with some pretty good friends. It’s not pretty. Most of them managed to get their shit together eventually.

      But the “epidemic” thing is stupid. Every few years either heroin or meth is a new crisis or something (no one seems to care about crack anymore). But I’m not at all convinced that there is any real significant change in usage patterns.

    2. I’ve found that the people who spiral downward on heroin were likely to spiral downward on something (alcohol, food, weird religions, gambling, meth, etc) because the drug use is a symptom of a fucked up life not the cause.

      1. Yeah, it’s weird. One kid could join the family business and be making a six figure income, like his brother. However right now, he is living next to a freeway off ramp, and I saw him begging in front of Target last week. The other kid just got out of jail, and was clean for about a week. He’s back and using more than ever, and will be homeless at the end of the month. He comes from a decent lower middle-class upbringing and has plenty of machining experience and skill. He could be working alongside his father and have a normal life. The third kid got out of jail about three months ago. Immediately started using again, and he and his shooting partner robbed their dealer at gun point. Of course, the police knew exactly who it was and picked up the duo. He’s going to prison for probably five years. I have some interesting conversations at my local bar.

        1. Yeah, that sounds like people who would be fucked up in any case with or without the dope. Plenty of people manage to maintain a habit without ending up a pathetic street junkie.

          I think that there would be less harm associated with all drugs if they were legalized, but opioids/opiates seem to me to be the ones whose harm is most exacerbated by prohibition.

          If heroin were legal, it would be extremely inexpensive (assuming no excessive taxes). And if you have a safe, clean, reliable supply that doesn’t bankrupt you, it is pretty easy to live a reasonably normal life with a junk habit. Certainly no worse than a high functioning alcoholic. Certainly not a desirable situation, but a million time better than it is under prohibition.

          When I want to shock people a little bit I like to explain that that is why in some ways I think it is even more important to legalize heroin than to legalize pot.

          1. When I want to shock people a little bit I like to explain that that is why in some ways I think it is even more important to legalize heroin than to legalize pot.

            This is great. People will think you’re trolling, but there is a lot of truth to that.

            1. That’s what a lot of us thought 30-40 yrs. ago. Since then I’ve been persuaded that pot was more important because of the much greater no. of people it affected, outweighing the intensity of the effect on the few, plus crime in gen’l in the USA has diminished.

        2. Note to self: stay out of Long Beach

    3. Are they doing it separately? Or together? Separately I think would be evidence of an epidemic; together, not so much.

  4. Epidemic; you keep using that word. I do not think it means what the talking heads think it means.

    1. Oh, very well. “Pandemic”, then.

      /Talking head

    2. That really annoys me too. See also “addiction” (e.g. addicted to oil, addicted to tasty processed foods).

    3. What, you mean I can’t catch heroin by having an addict sneeze on me?

  5. I swear I read “hernia epidemic,” and I thought… Not in my America.

    1. In Balko’s “Nut Punch America”, this is a realistic possibility.

  6. NewsFlash: Can these media exaggerations kill you? Are they at the park, lying in wait to pounce on your children? *cue stock footage of empty, slowly moving merry-go-round* Find out at 10.

  7. Look, they found Hoffman with, like, kilos of the stuff, right? And that’s just one guy, so the amounts being consumed must be staggering.

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