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We’re about two generations removed from D.A.R.E. programs and Nancy Reagan’s war-on-drugs-inspired “Just Say No” campaign, and yet the debate on what illicit drugs could do to you wages on. In fact, in the opinion of Carl Hart, PhD, a stimulant like hexedrone—better known on the streets (and in Miami) as “bath salts”—is the kind of drug that would actually benefit a person who took it right before a nightmarish event or a pre-COVID company holiday party.

Hart’s name has been ringing bells heavily since the top of this year, when his newest book, Drug Use for Grown-Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear, offered an insightful look into his position as a “drug abuse scientist” and pushed back against what he sees as the demonization of certain drugs and those who take them. He has questioned the prevailing opinion that methamphetamine interferes with cognition, and he has presented findings that suggest marijuana has minimal impact on the working memory of regular smokers.

Now entering his fifth year as a “regular heroin user,” this neuroscientist and tenured Columbia psychology professor makes the case for decriminalizing narcotics, arguing that “we’re too afraid of these drugs and of what we think they do,” according to his 2013 memoir, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. “Science should be driving our drug policy and our drug education, even if that makes you and me uncomfortable,” he shared in a 2014 TEDMed conference.

This is not an easy message to absorb, even for an audience that enjoys the higher points of life, which Complex readers might.

Hart, 54, tried heroin for the first time in his 40s, and has used it regularly—and, he says, responsibly—in the years since. His positions may seem quite extreme to some, but in coming out of the “chemical closet,” he has employed ample research in creating a much-needed discussion about the costs of the drug war. 

In this chat, Hart breaks down how drug education needs to be reevaluated in America and why testing is only for the industries to make money, and offers insight behind how toxicology reports are used to criminalize victims of police-sanctioned violence.