Carl Heart’s memoir, High Price, gives an alternative view on the War on Drugs by providing a personal perspective through his life story. Growing up in poverty, amid alcohol abuse, violence, a bad school system Carl Heart beat the odds that most of his friends and family faced, which was prison, death, and addiction.
Heart’s memoir explains to us how the War on Drugs distracts from the real root causes of drug use, and does so by sharing personal stories from in his own life in his African American community. He displays how drug use is the result of pain and the lack of a better economic alternative. Through his personal experience, Heart exposes the bad school systems in the African American communities and the impoverished inner-cities. Readers come to understand the extreme unlikeliness for those students to graduate and go onto college, let alone leave the community.
Carl Heart was one of the few who managed to leave, as he joins the military. The military allows him to take college class, which inspires him to eventually continue onto graduate school. He conducts some amazing research as a neuroscientist that helps expose major flaws in the War on Drugs. However, to his disappointment, he finds that even when using scientific data to prove there is no actually structural difference between crack and powder cocaine, the government dismisses his evidence and continues to charge high sentences. The government chose to see the drug as incredibly dangerous to society, as something that makes all users violent and unpredictable, even though real life evidence proved the contrary.
Carl Heart, having used and sold drugs himself explains that 20 million Americans use illegal drugs. However, it is the minority groups who are targeted as criminals. He also points out that more than 75% of drug users do not have an addiction problem, and in reality drugs only impact 10-25% of those who try stigmatized drugs, like heroin and crack, by causing a form of dependency. Heart’s experiments with both rats and human methamphetamine and crack-cocaine addicts prove that “alternative reinforces” such as cash are more desirable than drugs to these addicts. Therefore, he provides evidence against the common belief: addicts will do anything to get their next dose of drugs and drugs are irresistible to them.
Carl Heart’s memoir provides both scientific research and personal experience to account for the failure of the War on Drugs. The combination of his profession and personal perspectives gives his opinions a unique credibility on addressing the issue.