- Series: P.S.
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 10, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062015893
- ISBN-13: 978-0062015891
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 305 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society (P.S.) Paperback – June 10, 2014
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“It’s a fascinating combination of memoir and social science: wrenching scenes of deprivation and violence accompanied by calm analysis of historical data and laboratory results.” (John Tierney, New York Times)
“Moving and inspiring…. Hart’s memoir… is deeply honest and often painful. And his account of the ways in which scientific evidence has been ignored in the war on drugs is as alarming as it is fascinating.” (Boston Globe)
“Hart’s account of rising from the projects to the ivory tower is as poignant as his call to change the way society thinks about race, drugs and poverty.” (Scientific American)
“A hard-hitting attack on current drug policy by…a neuroscientist who grew up on the streets of one of Miami’s toughest neighborhoods…An eye-opening, absorbing, complex story of scientific achievement in the face of overwhelming odds.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A refreshing new analysis of drug use that reveals how common misconceptions about illegal drugs are far too often not based on empirical evidence. . . . . [A] thought-provoking…[and] important work on substance abuse.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“Combining memoir, popular science, and public policy, Hart’s study lambasts current drug laws as draconian and repressive…. His is a provocative clarion call for students of sociology and policy-makers alike.” (Publishers Weekly)
“It’s not every day you read a book that blows the lid off everything you’ve ever been taught about drugs, but Dr. Carl Hart’s recent work…does just that. Part memoir, part myth-buster…a fast-paced read.” (Huffington Post)
“Perhaps nowhere has a voice been more resonant in a single place than in Dr. Carl Hart’s profoundly impacting new memoir, High Price.” (Ebony.com)
“In his new book High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, Carl Hart blows apart the most common myths about drugs and their impact on society.” (Kristen Gwynne, Salon.com)
“Hart’s autobiography weaves personal memoir, Drug Science 101, and enlightened discussions of American racial politics into one engaging narrative.” (Gabriel Grand, PolicyMic.com)
From the Back Cover
A provocative and eye-opening memoir, High Price will change the way we think about addiction, poverty, and race, as well as our policies on drugs.
As Columbia University's first tenured African American professor in the sciences, groundbreaking neuroscientist Carl Hart has redefined our understanding of addiction. His controversial landmark research goes beyond the hype of the antidrug movement to shed new light on common ideas about race, poverty, and drugs, and to explain why current policies are failing.
In High Price, Hart recalls his personal story—and though he escaped neighborhoods that were entrenched in systemic poverty, he has not turned his back on them. But balancing his former street life with his achievements today has not been easy—a struggle he reflects on publicly for the first time here.
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As others have mentioned, this is largely an autobiography. By the time I hit page 180 or so, I knew that there was not going to be a fuller discourse on the science of addiction. Dr. Hart sprinkles the text here and there with brief synopses of his research and the research of others, which he believes demonstrates that drug addiction is not a deterministic outcome resulting from the repeated release of dopamine in the brain's "pleasure center", on which the current predominant model of addiction continues to center. Dr. Hart's work has shown, he believes, that addicts can and do make choices that belie that model as a complete or even necessary explanation. Instead, he argues that sociological determinants such as the institutional and social racism he experienced (but overcame) while growing up and the ensuing economic disadvantages and negative experiences that accrue over the life course are more powerful explanatory factors than purely biological ones. He argues for a change in policy that would de-emphasize the criminalization of drug use and emphasize harm reduction, much like the current model in Portugal.
This is a worthy discussion although not at all original. Where the book shines, in my estimation, is in the very compelling personal narrative that comprises the majority of the narrative. As much as I like to think I am enlightened about white privilege and my ability to empathize with if not completely understand what it is like to grow up as a black person in America, Dr. Hart's narrative dissuaded me on both counts. How broad social policies and years of discrimination affect families and individuals as told through the stories of Dr. Hart's family, friends, and acquaintances is eye opening. He pulls no punches in telling these stories and honestly recounts his feelings and struggles as he works his way out of a hard-life destiny that many of those he grew up with could not into a tenured professor at an ivy-league school (a fact he reminds the reader of just a wee bit much in my estimation but of which he is justifiably very proud). A very small quibble: I would have personally preferred that Dr. Hart designate himself (in the book and in the tagline) as being a neuropsychologist rather than a neuroscientist, of which I consider neuropsychology to be a subspecialty. He studies behavior related to neurology and neurological changes and not the neurological changes themselves that occur in addiction.
As indicated, where the book falters is in the rather skimpy treatment of addiction science that is presented mainly in the latter few chapters. Current models are much more complex than the dopamine hypothesis described in the text would suggest and encompass "executive functions" in the brain as well as other neural components. These models also increasingly include epigenetic research, which studies how environment interacts with gene expression; a topic of study that would dovetail nicely with Dr. Hart's emphasis on environmental factors. Despite the greater complexity of these models, there is still concern and criticism on the grounds that leaving out sociological determinants over the life course such as those described by Dr. Hart, will always leave these models wanting; the debate continues. I just wish Dr. Hart had given the other side more its due than he does.
I read this book after having already read Maia Szalavitz's "Unbroken Brain" and there were parts of it that gave me that deja vu feeling all over again. In tone and structure - thoughts on the nature of drug addiction wrapped in autobiography - the two are very similar. Whereas Dr. Hart had to contend with and overcome social impediments owing largely to race and racism, Ms. Szalavitz had to contend with and overcome childhood psychological problems. Both succeeded by virtue of hard work, intelligence, and a bit of luck but neither had an easy time of it. Szalvitz's book covers much of the same territory in terms of the science of addiction (dopamine hypotheses, rat park, etc.) but in a bit more detail than in Dr. Hart's book. She directs her criticism at the current treatment system - particularly the AA model - whereas Dr. Hart directs more of his criticism at the criminal justice system. Given the overlap between the two books, it did not surprise me at all to see Szalavitz credited in the acknowledgements of this book as well as in the copyright statement.
If you enjoyed reading Unbroken Brain Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction you will enjoy High Price, and vice versa. If you're looking for a fuller exposition on the disease model of addiction and its potential limitations, you will have to look elsewhere.
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.
Absolute essential reading for anyone in the field of addiction studies, and for those tasked with creating or reforming current ineffective and destructive drug policy. Highly recommended for anyone just interested in a subject which is becoming a major issue in our communities.