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UEL brings the debate on Americas War on Drugs to east London

UEL students

A renowned US academic held UEL students spellbound as he told them that the war on drugs was not working and that drugs should be legalised.  

Dr Carl Hart works at Columbia University in New York, one of the eight elite Ivy League institutions, where he conducts research and lectures in neuroscience, psychology, and pharmacology.

“Most of the people who use drugs are fine,” argued Dr Hart. “They look after their families, they can hold down a job, they pay their taxes.  Hell, they can even become president.”

In his book High Price, Dr Hart joins the growing number of professionals breaking with conventional thinking as he debunks the long held misconceptions associated with illegal drugs.

The book interweaves his revealing research with anecdotes from his own life story including his rise to prominence in academia made all the more remarkable by his impoverished background.

His lecture, entitled Promoting Social Justice Through a Neuro-psycho-pharmacological Lens”, explained why he thought the US government seemed determine to continue waging and expensive and fruitless policy.

“The War on Drugs has been a huge success for certain sectors,” argued Dr Hart. “It allows the government to target people they don’t like without explicitly saying so. It allows them to avoid dealing with the real problems of the poor, like unemployment, substandard education and poor nutrition. And it increases budgets for the addiction industry, such as law enforcement, treatment providers and scientists.”

It was UEL student power which brought him to east London. When those on the Health Studies module read his book last year, they were so inspired they wrote to him.  This started off a transatlantic chain of communication which resulted in their meeting Dr Hart in person.  After his talk Dr Hart revealed that when he told his academic colleagues that he was coming to the UK, they presumed he would be speaking at another university.

“When you tell people you’re going to the UK to give a talk, they assume that it’s at Oxford or Cambridge” he said. “But I think UEL is better. I wrote High Price for students who attend places such as UEL. So I am thrilled to have an opportunity to meet and engage my people."

Dr Jennifer Randall, Programme Leader of the Health Promotion module at UEL, was delighted that Dr Hart agreed to come to the UK to meet the students that he so inspired.

“Carl’s courageous telling of his own life to advance discussions on drug policy inspired our students to reflect on their own lives,” she said. “The transformations I witnessed within many of them has been overwhelming. I am honoured to have Carl visit and meet with those whose lives he has touched so deeply.”

Watch Dr Carl Hart’s UEL talk in full here

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.