Johann Hari

Are psychedelics the answer to addiction and depression?

Roland Griffiths was trying to meditate – but he couldn’t do it. If he sat there for a few minutes, it felt as through hours were stretching out before him, like a long, slow torture. So he quit. This tall, thin young scientist, who was rapidly rising through the ranks of academic psychology, would not meditate again for twenty years — but when he returned to mindfulness, he became part of unlocking something crucial. Professor Griffiths was going to make a breakthrough — just not for himself, but for all of us.

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This One Shocking Factor Can Make You 4600 Percent More Likely To Become an Addict

One of my earliest memories is of trying to wake up one of my relatives, and not being able to. As I got older, I understood why. We had addiction in my family. And as I watched some of my other close relatives become addicts, I asked myself several questions, but one in particular seemed haunting and insistent: why does addiction so often run in families? Why does it seem to pass from mother to daughter, from father to son, as though it were some dark genetic twist?

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The Intersection of the War on Drugs and the Jihad Attacks on France

For two years now, the world has been watching as France is subjected to the most vicious jihadi attacks of any European country. From the murder of the staff of Charlie Hebdo, to the massacre of partying twenty-somethings at the Bataclan, to the driving of a truck into the crowds celebrating Bastille Day, the most obvious question is – why France? Why are such a disproportionate number of their own citizens behaving this way?

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The Movement to End the War on Drugs Is Going Global

Rebels in the war on drugs

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Should We Stop Using the Word 'Addict'?

For the past year, I’ve been publicly arguing that we need to think very differently about addiction. For a century, we’ve been punishing addicts, and waging war on them—and we’ve ended up with a catastrophic addiction crisis. I’ve been to the countries that have instead adopted the opposite approach—compassion and love for addicts—and their addiction crises are shrinking over time.

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Why Is Marijuana Banned? The Real Reasons are More Surprising Than You Think

This article was originally published by The Influence, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on Facebook or Twitter.

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Everything We Think We Know About Drug Violence Is Wrong

Rosalio Reta was at summer camp, like all the other American teenagers his age. He was a short Texan fifteen-year old with spiky hair, nicknamed “Bart” because he looks like a less yellow Bart Simpson, and loves to skateboard. He was also into the Power Rangers, alternative pop, and Nintendo 64, especially The Mask of Zelda and Donkey Kong.

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This Surprising Factor Can Make People 4600 Percent More Prone To Addiction

One of my earliest memories is of trying to wake up one of my relatives, and not being able to. As I got older, I understood why. We had addiction in my family. And as I watched some of my other close relatives become addicts, I asked myself several questions, but one in particular seemed haunting and insistent: why does addiction so often run in families? Why does it seem to pass from mother to daughter, from father to son, as though it were some dark genetic twist?

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This Country Cut Drug Addiction Rates in Half by Rejecting Criminalization

It is now 100 years since drugs were first banned—and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds we take it for granted: There are strong chemical hooks in these drugs, so if we stopped on day 21, our bodies would need the chemical. We would have a ferocious craving. We would be addicted. That’s what addiction means.

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The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered and It Is Not What You Think

It is now 100 years since drugs were first banned, and all through this long century of waging war on drugs, we have been told a story about addiction, by our teachers and by our governments. This story is so deeply ingrained in our minds that we take it for granted. It seems obvious. It seems manifestly true. Until I set off three and a half years ago on a 30,000-mile journey for my book Chasing The Scream: The First And Last Days of the War on Drugs to figure out what is really driving the drug war, I believed it too. But what I learned on the road is that almost everything we have been told about addiction is wrong. There is a very different story waiting for us, if only we are ready to hear it.

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It's Not Just Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF Itself Should Be on Trial

Sometimes, the most revealing aspect of the shrieking babble of the 24/7 news agenda is the silence. Often the most important facts are hiding beneath the noise, unmentioned and undiscussed.

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The Turning Point We Miss at Our Own Peril

Sometimes there are turning-points in history – moments when we have to choose between an exuberant descent into lunacy, and a still, sober voice offering us a sane way out.

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Donald Trump's Lunacy Reveals Core Truth About the Republicans

Since the election of Barack Obama, the Republican Party has proved that one of its central intellectual arguments was right all along. It has long claimed that evolution is a myth believed in only by whiny liberals – and it turns out it was on to something. Every six months, the party venerates a new hero, and each time it is somebody further back on the evolutionary scale.

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Half a Million People Descended on London to Protest Corporate Tax Dodgers "This Is Economic Treason!"

As many as 500,000 protesters marched in London on Saturday to protest Britain’s deepest cuts to public spending since World War II. The protests come after U.K. officials estimated corporate taxes would be reduced even as it tackles a $235 billion deficit and plans to cut more than 300,000 public sector jobs. Meanwhile, in the United States protesters gathered in 40 cities on Saturday to oppose tax cuts for the wealthy amid budget cuts to public services. We broadcast a video report from the streets of London and speak to British journalist Johann Hari and Allison Kilkenny of Citizen Radio in New York.

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Why Disasters Make the Vast Majority of Us Better People

Before the Second World War, the Ministry of War confidently predicted what would happen when London was bombed from the air by Nazi planes. There would be, they warned, "a mass outbreak of hysterical neurosis among the civilian population". For every one person injured, there would be dozens who lose their morals or lose the plot. They would howl and they would loot and they would rape. Humans couldn't take it. They would break. They would turn on each other.

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Vision: Everyday Brits Are in Revolt Against Wealthy Tax Cheats -- Can We Do That Here?

Imagine a parallel universe where the Great Crash of 2008 was followed by a Tea Party of a very different kind. Enraged citizens gather in every city, week after week—to demand the government finally regulate the behavior of corporations and the superrich, and force them to start paying taxes. The protesters shut down the shops and offices of the companies that have most aggressively ripped off the country. The swelling movement is made up of everyone from teenagers to pensioners. They surround branches of the banks that caused this crash and force them to close, with banners saying, You Caused This Crisis. Now YOU Pay.

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Is Your Life Worth More to Your Government Than a Few Dollars' Gain in Oil Stocks?

 Is your life worth more to your government than a few pence added onto Big Oil's share price? At first, this will sound like a foolish question. But sometimes there is a news story that lays out the priorities of our governments once the doors are closed and the cameras are switched off. The story of the attempt to trade the Lockerbie bomber for oil is one of those moments.

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How Goldman Sachs Caused a 'Silent Mass Murder,' Gambling on Starvation in the Developing World

By now, you probably think your opinion of Goldman Sachs and its swarm of Wall Street allies has rock-bottomed at raw loathing. You're wrong. There's more. It turns out that the most destructive of all their recent acts has barely been discussed at all. Here's the rest. This is the story of how some of the richest people in the world - Goldman, Deutsche Bank, the traders at Merrill Lynch, and more - have caused the starvation of some of the poorest people in the world.

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The Real Climategate: Why Are Some Environmental Groups Pushing Policies That Will Make Global Warming Worse?

Editor's Note: You can read a response from many of the groups mentioned in the article here.

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The Choice at Copenhagen: Heroism or Collective Suicide

Mohammed Nasheed knows what global warming means, because he sees it every day. He survived years of imprisonment and torture to lead his country – the Maldives – to democracy. But now, as its president, he is being forced to watch as his homeland is wiped from the map. With each year that passes, the rising sea claims more land, and at the current rate it will claim everything.

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Dubai May Finally Be Broke, But It's Been Morally Bankrupt All Along

Dubai is finally financially bankrupt -- but it has been morally bankrupt all along. The idea that Dubai is an oasis of freedom on the Arabian peninsular is one of the great lies of our time. Yes, it has Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts and the Gucci styles, but beneath these accouterments, there is a dictatorship built by slaves.

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What Makes a Young Person Embrace Death and Murder? Former Jihadists Speak Out

Ever since I started meeting jihadis, I have been struck by one thing -- their Britishness. I am from the East End of London, and at some point in the past decade I became used to hearing a hoarse and angry whisper of jihadism on the streets where I live. Bearded young men stand outside the library calling for "The Rule of God" and "Death to Democracy."

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Our Thinness Obsessed Culture Is Destroying Women

When did it die? When did our collective disgust at the sickness and sicked-up stomach juices that fuel the fashion industry get replaced by an oh-so-ironic appreciation? When did even most liberals and feminists stop snubbing it and start wrestling their way to the rope-line in search of a goody bag?

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Have Republicans Turned Into a Weird Religious Cult?

Something strange has happened in America in the nine months since Barack Obama was elected. It has best been summarised by the comedian Bill Maher: "The Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved to a mental hospital."

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Dubai's Lesson to America: How the Middle East's Shangrai La Became a Hell on Earth

The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed -- the absolute ruler of Dubai -- beams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building, sandwiched between the more familiar corporate rictuses of Ronald McDonald and Colonel Sanders. This man has sold Dubai to the world as the city of One Thousand and One Arabian Lights, a Shangri-La in the Middle East insulated from the dust-storms blasting across the region. He dominates the Manhattan-manqué skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels smelted into the shape of piles of golden coins. And there he stands on the tallest building in the world -- a skinny spike, jabbing farther into the sky than any other human construction in history.

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We're Being Lied to About Pirates

Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy – backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China – is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menaces of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell – and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" – from 1650 to 1730 – the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage Bluebeard that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often saved from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains Of All Nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence.

If you became a merchant or navy sailor then – plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry – you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked often, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied – and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively, without torture. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century".

They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly – and subversively – that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal Navy." This is why they were romantic heroes, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age, a young British man called William Scott, should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirateing to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence".

No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas." William Scott would understand.

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?

Why the London Protesters Are on the Right Side of History

When this hinge-point in human history is remembered, there will be far more sympathy for the people who took to the streets and rioted than for the people who stayed silently in their homes. Two global crises have collided, and we have a chance here, now, to solve them both with one mighty heave -- but our leaders are letting this opportunity for greatness leach away. The protesters here in London were trying to sound an alarm now, at five minutes to ecological midnight.

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Bananas: A Parable for Our Times

Below the headlines about rocketing food prices and rocking governments, there lays a largely unnoticed fact: bananas are dying. The foodstuff, more heavily consumed even than rice or potatoes, has its own form of cancer. It is a fungus called Panama Disease, and it turns bananas brick-red and inedible.

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