Is Cocaine Addiction Real?

cocaine addictionIt seems like a no-brainer, especially for those of us who have suffered from cocaine addiction, but one study is questioning how serious the ailment is.  Somewhat alarming is the researcher credited with one of the most disturbing reports on cocaine addiction may be questioning his research.

According to Dr. Carl Hart, “eighty to ninety percent of people who use crack cocaine or methamphetamine don’t get addicted.”

Hart is the doctor who conducted the famous rat and cocaine addiction experiments, in which rats constantly ingested cocaine over food until their hearts gave out or they starved.

Hart’s recent experiment provided addicts a chance to earn $950 and smoke pharmaceutically produced crack cocaine.  Addicts were required to live in a hospital ward during the experiment, and came from low-income neighborhoods.  After the first hit of crack in the morning, at varying intervals throughout the day, the addicts would be given an opportunity to smoke more crack or receiver either $5 cash in hand or a $5 voucher at the end of the experiment.

The higher the dosage, the more likely the subject became to opt to smoke crack throughout the day.  The lower the dose, the more likely it was the addict would choose the money.

The same procedure was applied to meth, with similar results.  Additionally, when the reward was raised to $20, every addict passed up the chance for another hit.

“They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” Dr. Hart said. “When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions.”

That might not be true.  First of all, by using low-income addicts in the experiment, and confining them to a hospital for the duration of the experiment, it may simply be that the addicts saw it as a chance to change their lives.  Being isolated from their usual suppliers, with far stronger and free cocaine, and able to make money and save it for when they got out could be a tremendous motivator for those who may not have access to a typical drug and alcohol treatment center.

Even Hart’s own evidence in his newest book suggests this is the most likely.  His evidence shows that those in the most dire and desperate straights were most likely to face cocaine addiction. With no opportunities, and with a disease that tells us nothing but the bad parts of who we think we might be, it is no wonder that many of those sought to escape.  Hart even goes so far as to call it “rational” behavior.

By providing an addict food, shelter, pharmaceutical-grade crack, and money, it should be no wonder that many of them would tend to forego a hit every now and then to make some money for when they got out of the hospital and had to fight their battle with cocaine addiction alone once more.

It should be noted, though, that Dr. Hart attributed a person’s environment as being the biggest factor in addiction.  Being around old ideas in old surroundings with all the old faces and all the old circumstances make addiction a very hard obstacle to overcome.  When those factors are eliminated or limited, we are not left with a drug-crazed lunatic, as one University of Kentucky doctor put it.  Instead, we are left with someone suffering from a physical addiction and a mentality that drives us to escape at any cost.

What do you think of the research?  Let us know in the comments!

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