Carl Hart Describes Drug Addicts and Addiction

Question: How do you define addiction?

Hart:    There are multiple ways to define addiction of course but in medicine, when we think about when people come to, for health care.  We think of addiction in terms of the DSM termed.  The DSM is the Diagnostic in Statistical Manual.  It is produced by the American Psychiatric Association and in that book; it has a clear definition of what addiction is.  Addiction typically, we think of it as people may exhibit tolerance to a substance they may go through withdrawal when they don’t have the substance.  They may spend increasing amount of time engage in the behavior to obtain or use the substance they may have had unsuccessful, number unsuccessful attempts to cut down their use of the substance.  They may use despite the fact that they are having psychological or physical problems.  These are sort of hallmarks of addiction.  So like when people use the term in popular culture, they typically have another perspective in mind.  Some people use things like I’m a hopping addict, I’m a chocolate addict or something and that’s a more benign use of the term but then there are people who use the term, they think of things like folks who will steal your money and rob you, they are addicts. 

Question: How do you identify an addict early on?

Hart:    You can think about it from a biological perspective with alcohol people tends to think folks who have a parent for example who was an alcoholic.  They may have an increase likelihood of becoming dependent on alcohol while that’s the case we’re not entirely sure but people who are looking at genetics and other biological markers but we’re not real sure but we certainly think that they may have an increase likelihood and then there are of course there are important social factors, doing certain points of your life you may be more likely to be addictive to a substance because of some conditions under which you are experience, you don’t have a job, you don’t have any responsibilities, you have a greater access to a particular substance than you normally would have.  All of these things could increase the likelihood of somewhat becoming addictive.

Invoking chocolate, the professor talks about the right way and the


wrong way to define a drug addiction.

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Credit: Public domain
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