Addiction to Restriction?
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Addiction to Restriction?


HuffPo recently featured an article about Dr. Carl Hart, a Columbia professor who told MSNBC that there’s no “biological distinction” between addictive and non-additive drugs like cocaine and marijuana and that he feels what’s really to blame for a person’s addiction is the social restriction of it and the environment in which people tend to use it.

Hart’s Theories

When I first read the piece, I was confused. It seemed that Alman was reporting on some new, controversial breakthrough that drug addiction is not about the addict’s physical make-up or the brain’s reaction to the drug but more about the “competitive” environment in which people consume and obtain certain drugs. But after watching the clip from All In with Chris Hayes, it seems Hart’s point is that while cocaine is technically no more chemically addictive than marijuana (still not sure I’m buying this), it becomes problematic and addictive because it’s harder to get and is more socially unacceptable than marijuana.

Hart uses tobacco as an example, explaining that the use of it doesn’t cause any immediate social problems in the real world because it’s typically easy to obtain but does in the prison world. What Hart fails to address is how much money our country pours into anti-smoking ads, smoking cessation programs and public awareness of the negative effects of smoking even though smoking still claims more than 480,000 lives every year in the US alone. Considering these numbers and the crowds of people I see lighting up outside of—or 25 feet from—the door of any given bar, it seems like restriction and social acceptableness have very little to do with it.

What Would Skip Say?

I also can’t help but wonder what Dr. Skip (aka Dr. Sylvester Sviokla), the former surgeon and prominent ER doctor who recently penned a book about his experiences with drug addiction, would have to say about Hart’s findings. In a recent interview, Skip talked about how his problem started with drinking and escalated to 150 Vicodin pills a day. Being a doctor with free access to a prescription pad sort of disproves Hart’s theory on restriction. Besides, other than caffeine, I really can’t think of a drug more socially acceptable than pills.

I’m not saying that Hart’s theory has no validity. I think we can all relate to wanting something or someone more because we can’t have it. But to say that this element is what addiction is really all about feels unsubstantiated and ignorant. As a recovering alcoholic, the argument that it’s not the “high” we chase but the naughtiness of it doesn’t ring true. Especially when you consider alcohol, which is a humongous problem in our country and arguably harder to quit because of its positive social status quo.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.