Most helpful positive review
82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Nuanced Book about the Intersection of Drugs and Environment
on June 16, 2013
Disclaimer: I know Dr. Hart and had heard some of his story and have been exposed to his research before reading this book. That said, I started reading when it hit my Kindle and didn't put it down until I finished (for those fellow e-readers, like myself, I noticed no formatting issues as you sometimes see with kindle books). I found Dr. Hart's book to be utterly compelling and a magnificent achievement of the sort I have never read before in a "pop" psychology book. He manages to both make the neuroscience easily understandable, and uses he own autobiography to help support the argument prompted by his research findings. I have never seen an academic lay himself so bare, tenure or not. In doing so, Dr. Hart underscores his argument that drugs are not the primary problem in poor and/or minority communities. It is lack of many things: opportunity, personal decision making, family support, luck. Drugs are an issue, but this is due to the interaction of drugs with the above factors for most people (addiction is a different story, and Hart addresses that). The discussion of the similar depiction (by researchers, the government, and the media) of various drugs over the years as being instantly addictive and creating a culture of violence due to the nature of the drug's chemistry (whether it be cocaine, crack, or meth) was very powerful. Dr. Hart believed this himself until his research showed him that people were not mindless, poor decision makers only out for the next high. Using the lens provided by his research findings, he saw his own past and the pasts of the people he knew growing up in a different light. Dr. Hart's argument is very nuanced and makes it clear that the war on drugs is not only untenable from a "success" perspective, it is also disproportionately damaging to people from disadvantaged populations. This war and the subsequent criminalization of people takes even more opportunity for the future away.
I see the reviews of this book are polarized. People either love it or hate it. What that should tell potential readers, even if they want to dismiss every word of this review, is that this is not a book to be missed. The last thing you will be is bored. But read it carefully. I saw no glorifying of drugs, nor the rantings of a drug advocate. Rather, Dr. Hart suggests that being pro/anti drugs outside of the situational context is too simple a mindset.