Carl Hart Explains His Drug Research Lab
Dr. Hart is an Associate Professor of Psychology in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. A major focus of Dr. Hart’s research is to understand complex interactions between drugs of abuse and the neurobiology and environmental factors that mediate human behavior and physiology.
He is the author or co-author of dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology, co-author of the textbook, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, and a member of a NIH review group. Dr. Hart was recently elected to Fellow status by the American Psychological Association (Division 28) for his outstanding contribution to the field of psychology, specifically psychopharmacology and substance abuse.
Question: What is a typical lab project?
Hart: We have several labs in which we are investigating the effects of psycho active drug use in humans. The residential labs specifically allows us greater control it’s a laboratory in which we could, we can monitor our participants 24 hours a day and experimenters have little or no actions and so it allows us to monitor the best we can more naturalistic behavior. So we monitor participants via cameras, microphones, and online computer systems and in that way we don’t get in the way or we don’t, we can then discover we can then discover perhaps new behaviors that may occur. Typically in the residential lab participants are on a daily schedule in which they work, work for 8 hours a day and work being defined as they complete various cognitive test batteries, they complete subjective move scales of course they have, they are physiologically monitors through out the day. So they will do that for about 8 hours and of course they will also have breaks in between those various work periods or work task battery periods and then after that 8 hour period they will have access to social activities like video tape movies, video games, and they can also interact with other participants. So we try to make it, we try to model what happens in the real world when people are working 9 to 5 shifts or so.
Question: Are there benefits to using drugs at work?
Hart: So in the shift change studies that we do, we try to model folks working irregular shift schedules and because when you work irregular work schedules we have seen some of the most dramatic cognitive impairments that we’ve seen during our studies but you can attenuate these disruptions that are caused by changing people shift schedule by giving medications or drugs like medafonil that’s a stimulant, that’s approve to treat narcolepsy and also shift change schedules disruptions you so, that’s been a benefit and we also all know that when you give low oral doses of amphetamines, they do the same, they attenuate these disruptions in a performance cause by shift change but this isn’t new that sort of thing isn’t new. The US military has known this for at least 6 years and that’s why these medications are used in the US military particularly with folks who are working extended hours.
Question: What’s the most extreme drug reaction you’ve ever seen?
Hart: I guess I can answer this in 2 ways. What is the most dramatic effect I’ve seen in general and doing this type of work and then what’s the most dramatic drug effect that I’ve seen? The most dramatic effect that I’ve seen in general doing this type of work is we do shift change schedules in which we have people work from 8 in the morning until 4 in the evening or 9 to 5 and then we’ll have them do that for a week and then we will abruptly change them to work in a shifts in which they wake up at midnight and they wake, they work until 8 AM and they will do that for a week and then we’ll switch them back to the day shifts. So when you do that type of, when you have that type of design, you start to see dramatic effects because people sleep patterns are disrupted and you start to see dramatic effect on cognitive performance. Cognitive performance is really impaired doing that, that those are the most dramatic effect I have seen doing this type of work. now, the most dramatic drug effect that I have seen I think may be related to, maybe marijuana when you have people smoke marijuana, they don’t talk as much I mean when participants interact during a social period, they talk quite a bit but when they are intoxicated with marijuana, they don’t talk they like be tend to want to socialize, to be with each other but talking dramatically decreases.
Question: Why do people get stressed when they are high?
Hart: Humans have always engaged in some activity that would alter their consciousness I mean, since humans been on, [desire] people will get high, that’s a fact. That’s alcohol is available. That’s why number of these legal substances are available. Where does it stem from? I think people are curious at some level and they want to alter their current state of being I mean, that could be from curiosity, that could be from stressed, that can be from some other sort of ailments, or problem that they are experiencing or could just be from boredom but humans have always attempted to alter their consciousness. Kids whoa re on a playground for example, they spin around and they get dizzy, altering their, the way they currently feel.
The professor briefs us on his research at Columbia and describes why his project is important.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.
Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco!
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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