Columbia University professor Carl Hart has come forward about his heroin use in a new book entitled Drug Use for Grown-ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear.
Hart, a trained neuroscientist, says he doesn’t have a drug problem but uses heroin as a way to maintain “work-life balance.”
“There aren’t many things in life that I enjoy more than a few lines by the fireplace at the end of the day,” writes Hart. “I pay my taxes, serve as a volunteer in my community on a regular basis and contribute to the global community as an informed and engaged citizen. I am better for my drug use.”
He described feeling “refreshed” after his regular use but said he experiences mild withdrawal symptoms for 12-16 hours after his last dose. In one particularly intense withdrawal episode, Hart experienced flu-like symptoms, including chills, vomiting, and diarrhea. “It was a pain that I would not easily forget. It was a new pain, unlike any I had previously experienced,” wrote Hart. “It was so intense that it radiated throughout my entire body.”
If used properly and responsibly, Hart said drugs could help alleviate day-to-day stresses to maintain that work-life balance. Expanding on that idea in GQ, Hart said: “A large percentage of people who meet criteria for addiction have co-occurring psychiatric illnesses: depression, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, a wide range of other psychiatric illnesses.” He added, “A large percentage of them also have other illnesses. They may be pain patients. So that increases the likelihood of them becoming addicted … Another reason is that some people just have not developed responsibility skills. They haven’t developed an ability to exercise inhibitory control. It’s just one of these things that develops over time.”
“You could have a massive public-service-announcement campaign that says ‘If you’re going to use opioids, don’t use alcohol as a background or other sedatives in combination, because it increases the likelihood of respiratory depression and death,’” Hart concluded.