Jeff Glor talks to Carl Hart about "High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society"
Jeff Glor: What inspired you to write the book?
Carl Hart: In 2008, while serving on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant review committee with Melissa Gerald, late one evening at dinner she suggested that I meet with her literary agent brother about writing a book. She thought that my data-driven views on drugs would have broad appeal and might even affect public policy; I was less optimistic. By this point in my career, I had published dozens of papers in important scientific journals, had been awarded prestigious fellowships and competitive grants to conduct research, and had been invited to join influential scientific committees. I had co-wrote a respected textbook that became the number-one text used to teach college students about drugs and won awards for my teaching at Columbia University. And yet, much of what we were doing, as a country, in terms of drug education, treatment, and public policy seemed to be driven by emotional hysteria rather than evidence. This approach obfuscates the real problems faced by poor people and contributes to gross misuses of limited public resources.
The thing that really convinced me that this book needed to be written, however, was thinking about the real possibility that my sons' futures could be readily ruined because of our misapprehensions about drugs. I'd seen this happen to too many other relatives and friends. I wanted to show the public how they have been misled. This meant that I would have to discuss the implications of my work outside the insulated, cautious, and less-often read scientific journals, which were my normal vehicles of communication.
JG: What surprised you the most during the writing process?
CH: I was most surprised by my acute emotions that remain from events that occurred during childhood. I mistakenly believed that many issues were resolved because I no longer thought about them. Writing this deeply personal book forced me to revisit some difficult emotional terrain, some of which I still haven't completely resolved. At least now, however, I am not deluded in thinking that out sight means out of mind.
JG: What would you be doing if you weren't a writer?
CH: I guess I now consider myself a part-time writer and a full-time scientist. If I were no longer writing, I'd spend more time doing my science, investigating the effects of drugs on brain and behavior, and teaching students.
JG: What else are you reading right now?
CH: I'm currently reading three books: "Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People" by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald; "The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and Rise and Decline of Black Politics" by Fredrick Harris; "Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination" by Alondra Nelson
JG: What's next for you?
CH: I'll continue to conduct my research and to teach university students about neuroscience, psychology and drugs.
For more on "High Price" visit the Harper Collins website.