mental health | November 15, 2015

The Truth About Addiction: Introducing New Speaker Johann Hari

Writing for The Huffington Post, Johann Hari states: “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.” This crucial distinction, learned through his 12-country, 30,000-mile journey into the war on drugs, has massive implications for how we think about addiction and the laws that police it. As he did in his bestselling book Chasing the Scream—and in his viral TED Talk—Hari is turning a 100-year-old war on its head. And he’s helping us to change our minds, our policies, and our hearts in the process.

Conventional thinking portrays drug addiction as the result of chemical dependency, or even moral depravity. But, as Hari demonstrates, chemicals are only part of the story: studies show that social conditions—isolation, depression, poverty—create environments that allow addiction to take root. These conditions are only worsened by anti-drug policies: wrongheaded laws that imprison users in mass numbers, divorce them from society and support, and nurture criminality and brutal cartels. Nevertheless, as Hari argues in his book and keynotes, there is hope. Countries have rethought addiction by decriminalizing drugs, securing housing, providing subsidized jobs, and reconnecting users to society. Such efforts have had an incredible impact. Violent crime, overdoses, unemployment rates routinely drop; in Portugal, “injecting drug use is down by 50 percent.”

Hari’s talks are funny, fascinating, and moving, combining eye-opening social science with vividly human anecdotes. Whether speaking on the need to re-think how we treat the addicts in our societies, on the surprising history of the war on drugs, the many survivors and victims of flawed policy, or the sparks of hope in progressive nations, Hari delivers both “superb journalism and thrilling storytelling,” as Naomi Klein writes. For many, this should come as no surprise; Hari’s written for The New York Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, and worked as lead op-ed columnist for The Independent for nine years. He was also named ‘National Newspaper Journalist of the Year’ by Amnesty International (twice), ‘Environmental Commentator of the Year’ at the Editorial Intelligence Awards, and ‘Gay Journalist of the Year’ at the Stonewall Awards.

Now, as our exclusive keynote speaker, Hari is helping audiences rethink addiction around the world. Transforming the war on drugs to a campaign of connection—pursuing social recovery in what George Monbiot called “the age of loneliness”—means transforming economic and governmental policy. But it also means transforming our private lives. These will require difficult conversations, but they are surely ones we need to be having.

To hear more insights into the war on drugs and the nature of addiction, book exclusive speaker Johann Hari by contacting The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

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exclusives | November 12, 2015