Kudos to The New York Times for reporting, perhaps for the first time, that large scientific communities may not tell the whole truth when pursuing your tax dollars. The associated article is about drug addiction, or, rather, the lack of it when people have other ways of getting their jollies. As reported in the Times, the research of Dr. Carl Hart at Columbia University clearly shows why it’s not. Rather than behaving like rats pressing a lever for a high, regular crack cocaine users will simply forgo small doses for a few dollars, and “when he raised the alternative reward to $20, every single addict, of meth and crack alike, chose the cash.” As the crack users were confined to a hospital setting for several weeks, they couldn’t exactly use the money to go out and score more.
Applied scientists—i.e. pain management specialists, know this is self-evident. By far the most prescribed drug in the United States is the synthetic opioid hydrocodone. According to WebMd, an astounding 131,200,000 prescriptions were written for hydrocodone in 2010, the last year of record. Under the assumption that each one was probably for thirty pills and renewable once, that comes out to 7.8 billion doses in the U.S. every year. That’s 26 doses per man, woman and child. If this stuff were half as addictive as the DEA (OK, the AMC drama Breaking Bad is on my mind) and the political class think, there’d be a permanent traffic jam outside every emergency room in the nation.