Busting the Drug Addiction Myth

Busting the Drug Addiction Myth

We need to be honest about what drugs do and don’t do.

In the United States, scientists place a disproportionate focus on their negative effects, and since the country is the largest funder of research on drugs, it has helped fuel the dangerous rhetoric that dominates today’s drug policy discourse. This language preys on people’s fears and further marginalizes people who use drugs, often times harming the poorest and most vulnerable.

This narrative fails to point out that between 10 to 20 percent of people who use drugs, depending on the substance, become addicted.

As a part of an experiment at Dr. Carl Hart’s psychology lab at Columbia University, his team offered alternatives such as cash incentives to people who use drugs to encourage them to shift their behavior. With the right amount of financial incentive, most participants of the study eventually chose the money over drugs. Importantly, this demonstrated that the users were not purely driven by the drug itself and were able to negotiate the most beneficial alternative.

For too long, we’ve tried to frighten the public with scare tactics and deter with punitive measures rather than rely on evidence and educate with facts.

As Hart says in the video above, “The evidence is overwhelming that we are going about this the wrong way.” Scientists, advocates, politicians, health care providers, and citizens alike need to develop and promote drug policies grounded in social justice, public health, and human rights.

Learn More:



Great! But careful about 'blasting' info on how to kill yourself. People are not as stupid as you think. Instead the keys are to (1) decriminalize and (2) warn people about abstinence based treatment - which results in bingeing, bullying and death. Yes you can warn people that mixing is dangerous but with the message that death is usually intentional. (Which it is.)

Thanks for this interesting and evidence based article. These debates are also happening in the UK and Ireland. Mostly politicians don't look at evidence, are too narrow minded, and afraid to rock the boat. David Nutt and Steve Rolles are excellent examples of people not afraid to take risks in promoting the health and social justice side of this issue. In Ireland Politician Aodhan O Riordhan has also taken risks and pushed for harm reduction and safe injecting rooms.

Well said. Even in the face of all of this honesty, as a society, we still have difficulty solving our drug problems because ultimately it is linked to our unwavering love of capitalism. We love money more than we love anything, including our children. We must fix ourselves.

To get off drugs/addiction need HOPE, prospect of a life worth living, need all the BASICS in place, including inclusion, acceptance, love and private and free communication (of many kinds). All supposed to be our rights... = access to those/all first. And maybe then it will follow that...

Yes, for a long time I thought they (who?!) should do this also to encourage/reward (gifts, rewards, points to exchange for services/products/sports/holidays = REAL free wide choice, lists created by users): exercise, quit smoking (lots of different drugs), useful preventative medecine, healthy living. But MUST create the choice/ability to = for ALL, including the poor, uneducated, disabled, young, old, excluded/groups facing higher barriers.

And OUR top priorities, not bureaucrats/governments.
And not things like blood pressure as in UK = GPs rewarded for some things but the major ones excluded such as skin cancers, chronic illness, dentist, optician = lots of BASICS.

And need REAL info on risks for eg vaccines and drugs. Oh yes AND for 'healthy' sports, injury/disease caused by bad housing, stress & poverty on benefits, no access to healthcare,...

Obvious. Simple.

And governments should be rewarded for access to healthcare, housing, good food, enough basic income to all = social security. Those not providing this are obviously criminals, torturers, crimes against humanity. But nobody, no person, responsible & accountable?

changing the world

drugs are good because they are.
everything else is irrelevant

This was an interesting commentary, like to learn more.

Yes, it cannot be denied that the vast majority of drug users are not folk having an ongoing torturous relationship with drugs (as I have). I also agree that this needs to be reiterated over and over again as it seems drugs (like so many other emotive issues) have so many lies or misinformation attached to them. And these distortions have led to the most abominable interventions against people who use drugs and all associated communities.
Of course I am biased as an X-IDU but I think this is one of the groups that has suffered some of the most brutal injustices decade after decade of this myopic immoral drug war. Whenever I think of places like Iran, China, Russia , SE Asia where the IDU population is devastated by AIDS, i need to go to a remote location and scream because all of these deaths could so easily have been so easily prevented. Screaming over, I can continue to help end this war on vulnerable/poor communities. Feel so privileged to be part of the growing family of reformers in the world... usersvoice.org

It is time now, together we can make changes.

Add your voice