Repost- Faces of Drug Abuse Research: Carl L. Hart, Ph.D.

As I noted on the repost for Percy L. Julian, Ph.D., earlier this week, I'm swamped this month. So for Black History Month I'm offering up reposts. Today's installment features a scientist who authored a paper I had occasion to blog a few weeks ago and my email box reports has just been elected to the Board of Directors for the academic society College on Problems of Drug Dependence. This post originally appeared on the Sb blog Feb 2, 2009.


CarlHart.jpgAssociate Professor Carl L. Hart, Ph.D. (PubMed; Department Website; ResearchCrossroads Profile) of the Psychology and Psychiatry Departments of Columbia University conducts research on several drugs of abuse with concentrations on cannabis and methamphetamine. In his studies he uses human subjects to determine many critical aspects of the effects of recreational and abused drugs including acute and lasting toxicities as well as dependence. Dr. Hart is also a contributing member of the New York State Psychiatric Institute Division on Substance Abuse.
In his academic research role, Professor Hart works within the highly respected and very well known Substance Use Research Center of Columbia University where he directs both the Methamphetamine Research Laboratory (Meth R01 Abstract) and the Residential Laboratory. The blurb for this latter will give you a good flavor for the workaday of Dr. Hart's work:

The residential laboratory, designed for continuous observation of human behavior over extended periods of time, provides a controlled environment with the flexibility to establish a range of behaviors, and the ability to monitor simultaneously many individual and social behavior patterns. This laboratory is equipped with a closed circuit television and audio system encompassing each individual chamber for surveillance and measurement purposes, and to provide continuous monitoring for the participant's protection. We believe that this relatively naturalistic environment can best meet the challenge of modeling the workplace to predict the interaction between drug use and workplace variables. Because our participants live in our laboratory with minimal outside contact, we are able to evaluate multiple aspects of the effects of drugs on workplace productivity in the same individuals.


If you review his publications on PubMed you will note that Dr. Hart has contributed to quite a number of studies evaluating possible therapeutic medications for helping with cessation of substance use, has evaluated the effects of many of the more-common drugs of abuse on "shift work" related parameters and investigated potential lasting cognitive effects of sustained use of cannabis, stimulants and alcohol. In short, he has worked on what I think of as all the main areas of health interest when it comes to recreational drugs- What are the long term risks to cognitive function? What are the acute effects? How do we help the drug dependent to stop using? If you are readers of my occasional musing on drug abuse topics you will quite rightly conclude that I find Professor Hart's papers to be must-reads because his work focuses on the real-world issues that are ultimately of greatest importance. Animal research on basic principles is fine and all but research on the various human drug-using subpopulations is both the launching pad and backstop for nonhuman studies.
Professor Hart is also author of an excellent introductory text on drug abuse, suitable for undergraduate instruction (I have used a prior edition myself). Drugs, Society and Human Behavior is currently in the 13th edition (Publisher; Amazon) which lists Dr. Hart as the first author. This text was originally developed by Charles Ksir (Prof. Hart's graduate advisor) and Oakley Ray (RIP) and the authorship over recent editions would suggest that Professor Hart has now taken over primary responsibility for subsequent editions of this book. As the publisher website notes:

In addition to his substantial research responsibilities, Dr. Hart teaches an undergraduate Drugs and Behavior course and was recently awarded Columbia University's highest teaching award.

Having seen Dr. Hart give a few research presentations over the years I can certainly believe this latter, he is quite a dynamic speaker. Well, perhaps not dynamic exactly...more like a commanding speaker. I doubt anyone is falling asleep in the back of the lecture hall.
As a final note, it looks very much from the research Google-fu as if Professor Hart is a person who embodies many of the realities of modern research careers as I detail them on this blog. He appears to have joined the Columbia group as a postdoc, gained a faculty appointment and worked his way through to tenure at a fairly elite University. Along the way he took over responsibility for some of the larger research group's core operations (including becoming PI of the R01 award and successfully renewing it), launched his own domain of concentration (with R01 funding) within a highly collaborative group, published some great papers, won teaching awards and took over responsibility for subsequent editions of a highly popular and excellent undergraduate text book. And that is just the public record. It is unimaginable that he would have arrived at his current career position without a lot of hidden service reviewing papers and grants, doing committee work for his University, etc.
In short, one of those very smart and dedicated individuals who is working for you, the US taxpayer, to do some GoodThings for public health. Thank you Professor Hart.

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