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BOOK REVIEW: 'High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society' by Dr. Carl Hart

Terri Schlichenmeyer | 9/4/2013, 2 p.m.
What do you know about drugs and the causes of addiction? In the new book "High Price" by Dr. Carl ...

c.2013, HarperCollins

$26.99/$28.99 Canada

340 pages

Everything you believe is wrong.

There are, for instance, no alligators living in the sewers of New York. Elvis is not alive and living near a burger joint in Michigan. Head colds are not caused by walking in the snow, and the Tooth Fairy?

Sorry.

So what do you know about drugs, and the causes of addiction? In the new book “High Price” by Dr. Carl Hart, you’ll be surprised at recent revelations.

Growing up in “one of the roughest neighborhoods of Miami,” Carl Hart had all kinds of temptations at his fingertips. Still, he managed to resist many of them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Hart was a complete angel.

Guns were easy to get where he lived, and there was once a time when he wanted one for revenge. He and his friends shoplifted, dine-and-dashed, and once held a gun on a white man for fun. And he experimented with drugs – marijuana, cocaine, tobacco, and alcohol – even though he knew that those substances would poorly affect the basketball career he so badly wanted.

When he didn’t get a basketball scholarship, Hart knew that his best option was to join the military, so he entered the Air Force and discovered that basic training was easy for an athlete from Miami who was used to hot-weather activity. He used that ease to challenge his fellow airmen, and he found his leadership abilities.

And because he was trying to stay out of trouble – which meant avoiding the brothers who wanted to smoke marijuana – he took his first college class.

Today, Hart’s career lies in the study of the effects of drugs on behavior, and because of his research, he has learned some surprising things about addiction; for instance, the vast majority of cocaine use is outside the black community, and 80-90 percent of cocaine users “do not develop problems with the drug.” Furthermore, Hart believes that the solution to the drug problem – and, by extension, many of the other societal ills that befall inner cities – isn’t through a racially-motivated “war on drugs.” What’s needed, he says, is for people – especially young adults – to have a “stake in our society.”

Though it tends to take awhile to get to the point, “High Price” isn’t bad.

Author and neuropsychopharmacologist Dr. Carl Hart, Ph.D. uses his own life experiences and plenty of up-front truth to show how general perceptions of drug use and abuse is wrong, particularly when it comes to drugs and the black community. This mixing of a personal story and hard research is interesting and appealing, in part because Hart isn’t preachy and partly due to his unique history as someone who actually lived that which he’s trying to help others avoid.

It took some effort for me to stay with this book at first, but I was ultimately glad I stuck around. And if you’re a reader who questions assumptions, is tired of “experts” who don’t walk the walk, and you love a good biography, then “High Price” is a book I believe you’ll like, too.