Narcotica

Episode 73: Oh No! Not Naltrexone! with Nancy Curran

Naltrexone, also known by its brand name, Vivitrol, is an opioid antagonist that kicks opioids off of opioid receptor in the brain, not unlike naloxone. But thanks to a combination of overprescription, unscrupulous marketing practices and ubiquitous use over more effective alternatives, naltrexone is a very controversial drug. In fact, a common reaction is Oh no! Not naltrexone!

Of course, naltrexone has some benefits and many people say their life has been saved by it. And at Narcotica, we don’t believe any drug is “bad” or “evil.” So where does this substance fit into the broader scheme of things? We’ve spoken about naltrexone many times on this show, but never this indepth before.

Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah speak with Nancy Curran, a nurse practitioner who has been practicing for 5 years in an OBOT clinic in the Lowell Massachusetts area, treating both opioid and alcohol use disorders. She prescribes buprenorphine (both Suboxone and Sublocade), as well as naltrexone (Vivitrol). She also treats patients who need Hep C treatment. Nancy is passionate about advocating for and educating her patients on their medication options, as well as their rights.

They discuss the history of hallucinogenic opioids, the shrewd and quasilegal marketing practices of Alkermes, Inc., how naltrexone stacks up against buprenorphine and methadone, why stigma persists against people who take certain opioid use disorder drugs but not others, the difference between addiction and dependency, some basic opioid receptor science, and much, much more.

Follow Nancy on Twitter at: @cashboygo

More background on naltrexone and the XBOT Studay can be found here and here. We also recommend reading Walter Sneader’s book: Drug Discovery, A History and also Nancy Campbell’s book OD: The Politics of Overdose.

You can read Zach’s article on Four Good Days and more here: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/magazine/addiction-movies.html

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 19: Debunking Bupe Diversion Myths with Molly Doernberg
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 36: Moral Hazards and Naloxone, A Toxicologist’s Perspective with Ryan Marino

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. We just opened a shop where you can order Narcotica merch: narcocast.myshopify.com Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: edit: Troy Farah

Episode 72: When The Trip Doesn’t End with Ed Prideaux

Psychedelics and other drugs can trigger a condition called Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder, a terrible name for a real condition that we don’t have much data on and is poorly understood. But while it’s clear that psychedelics shouldn’t be illegal, it’s also clear we’re still learning about some of the risks. This fascinating and often distressing phenomenon deserves a closer look, but not everything about it is devastatingly tragic, either.

In this episode of Narcotica, co-host Troy Farah talks all about HPPD with Ed Prideaux, a master’s student in psychology at the University of East London with a background in journalism. Ed is currently focused on researching and addressing the problems, possibilities and questions raised by HPPD: a broad, under-researched and not entirely uncommon condition in which people experience sustained and distressing changes to their visual perception (among other effects) after psychedelic trips. Ed has lived with these visual effects for nearly seven years, and is affiliated with a nonprofit launched last year to promote harm reduction around HPPD called the Perception Restoration Foundation.

Follow Ed at https://edprideaux.journoportfolio.com/
Visit the Perception Restoration Foundation at: Perception.Foundation

Some more info on perception as a hallucination: https://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/2022/02/is-reality-a-hallucination-the-neuroscientist-anil-seth-thinks-so

Some of the studies mentioned in this episode:
The abuse potential of medical psilocybin according to the 8 factors of the Controlled Substances Act
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29753748/
Flashback phenomena after administration of LSD and psilocybin in controlled studies with healthy participants
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35076721/
Adverse effects of psychedelics: From anecdotes and misinformation to systematic science
https://doi.org/10.1177%2F02698811211069100

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee
Episode 64: LSD And Psilocybin For Physical Pain? with Greg McKee and Dr. Johannes Ramaekers
Episode 59: Psychedelic Extinction—How Poaching Endangers Some Psychoactive Plants with Dr. Anya Ermakova

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. We just opened a shop where you can order Narcotica merch: narcocast.myshopify.com Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

*Note: Troy says niacin is Vitamin C, it’s actually Vitamin B3. We regret the error.

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: David J / Flickr // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 71: Aduhelm, Obscene Drug Prices and Big Pharma Tactics with Dr. John Abramson

It’s easy to hate the massive pharmaceutical corporations that extract obscene profit from the healthcare system—and there are many, many reasons why you should distrust these companies, although the situation is far more complex than “Big Pharma = bad.” But how did we get here? How did medical care get so expensive, so complicated and sometimes, so harmful?

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Dr. John Abramson, a long-time critic of Big Pharma, whose new book Sickening untangles the many perverse incentives that dominate American healthcare. It helps explain why drug prices are so high, why medications that harm instead of heal are regularly approved by the FDA and much more, starting with the recent debacle over Aduhelm, an extremely controversial Alzheimer’s drug.

Follow Dr. Abramson on Twitter: @DrJohnAbramson and get Sickening: ow Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It here.

You can read Troy’s review of Sickening on Undark Magazine here: https://undark.org/2022/03/18/book-review-sickening/

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 46: Behind The Pharmacists’ Counter with Jessica Moreno
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 65: Restoring Trust in Doctors Amidst The Overdose Crisis with Dr. Ben Cocchiaro and Dr. Ashish Thakrar

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Rudolf Ammann / Flickr // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 70: How Testosterone Bans Criminalize the Body with Adryan Corcione

Imagine banning a chemical that we all make in our bodies. But that’s exactly where drug war logic takes us and why testosterone is Schedule III on the Controlled Substances Act, alongside ketamine and buprenorphine. Testosterone is painted as some dangerous substance that must be locked up. These outlandish fears led to restrictive laws which lead to criminalization and barriers to access—essentially criminalizing identity and the very bodies we inhabit. But bans on testosterone, ostensibly to stop athletes from boosting their competitive abilities, can have real world impacts, especially for gender variant people, especially transmasculine people.

Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Adryan Corcione about the climate of testosterone, why this hormone became so scrutinized (and how Joe Biden was part of that), and how syringe access programs have stepped in to help folks get the recognition and healthcare they deserve.

Follow Adryan Corcione on Twitter and read their piece in Filter Magazine here.

A few resources:
https://www.transformationsproject.org/legislation – anti trans legislation tracker by state
https://www.them.us/story/anti-lgbtq-bills-2022-explained-trans-sports-laws-youth-healthcare-mandated-reporter – recent roundup of anti-trans bills
https://translifeline.org/ – trans lifeline, peer hot line for trans people experiencing crisis
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ – 24/7 LGBTQ+ hotline for young LGBTQ+ people
https://reconcilearkansas.org/ – Arkansas specific group to support trans/gnc youth
https://www.transtexas.org/ – transgender education education network of texss
https://tranzmission.org/ – trans rights org in western NC

Also, reach out to trans-specific groups local to you.

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 62: Policing Pleasure — The Intersection of Sex Work and Drug Use with Tamika Spellman and Caty Simon
Episode 33: Party and Play—An Intro to Chemsex with David Stuart
Episode 60: Perinatal Panic—Drugs, Pregnancy and Stigma with Ria Tsinas, Joelle Puccio and Erika Goyer
Episode 24: How To Get Abortion Pills Feat. Lynn Paltrow and Francine Coeytaux

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Paddington Bear
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye

Episode 69: The Promise and Peril of the Psychedelic Mainstream with Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin

Psychedelics are not exactly taking the same path that cannabis has taken to the mainstream, but there are some similarities. In the late ‘90s and early aughts, when medical cannabis was first starting to take hold in California, quasi-legal businesses popped up overnight, with a lot of questionable quality control and these shops were often raided by the DEA. Now cannabis is so blasé in places like California and more than 15 other states that have adult-use weed, that it’s almost hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t have a bag of cannabis gummies, plus a joint dipped in oil and rolled in kief, delivered directly to your door like they used to do with Netflix DVDs.

Is that what we’re going to see with psilocybin, LSD, DMT and all the rest? Already people in some places like D.C., Colorado and Oregon are selling branded psychedelic edibles. In a lot of ways with psychedelics, we’re right where we were around 2010 with cannabis—a quasi-legal market that is ready to become legitimate, whether you like it or not.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah talks with Shelby Hartman and Madison Margolin, two of the great minds behind DoubleBlind Magazine, a publication dedicated to all things psychedelics and much more in the periphery of psychedelic culture. They discuss some of the pros and cons psychedelics becoming mainstream, how people can navigate this emerging space, the Decriminalize Nature movement, reciprocity for Indigenous people and much more.

Visit https://doubleblindmag.com/ for more info.

Follow Madison on Twitter: @margolinmadison
Follow Shelby on Twitter: @shelbyannehart

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity with Ivan Casselman
Episode 59: Psychedelic Extinction—How Poaching Endangers Some Psychoactive Plants with Dr. Anya Ermakova

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / HoliznaCC0
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Open Clipart // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 68: Is The Drug War Getting Better… Or Worse? with Zach Siegel, Chris Moraff and Troy Farah

On this episode, Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel, Chris Moraff and Troy Farah interview each other, riffing on one question: Is the drug war getting better… Or worse? They cover everything from nitazenes, Dopesick, the Drug User’s Liberation Front, banning psychedelics like DiPT, benzo dope, West Virginia, buprenorphine, psychedelic exceptionalism, drug testing, crack pipes, supervised consumption sites in NYC and much, much, more.

Their conclusion? You’ll have to listen to find out. OK, not really: Like many things, it’s a mix of both progress and backsliding. Narcotica’s founders discuss their current frustrations and what’s giving them optimism in America’s longest running war, a conflict directed at people. Maybe the end is in sight after all.

Follow Chris Moraff on Twitter: @moraffreports
Follow Zach Siegel on Twitter: @ZachWritesStuff
Follow Troy Farah on Twitter: @filth_filler

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 27: What’s the Most Dangerous Drug?
Episode 58: How Racism Fuels The Drug War with Kassandra Frederique
Episode 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Holly Mangler
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Noun Project // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 67: Methadone in the Time of Covid with Danielle Russell

Harm reduction programs like syringe access, supervised consumption or even just handing out condoms on the street, can be some of the only access to healthcare some people encounter. Definitely not all, but some people who use drugs routinely shun going to the doctor—not because they don’t care about their health, but because our for-profit healthcare system treats almost everyone who uses an illicit substance like complete shit. And people who use drugs have been treated like pariahs long before the covid pandemic, but things got way worse once the virus came to town.

Previously on Narcotica, co-host Chris Moraff did an episode all about how doctors need to work harder to rebuild the patient-trust relationship. And many medical professionals are doing that work, which makes such a huge difference. It’s hard to understate how valuable it can be to receive nonjudgmental medical care that doesn’t hinge on absolute abstinence.

That episode, number 65, which we encourage you to listen to after this one, came from the perspective of two amazing doctors, Ashish Thakrar and Ben Cocchiario. However, on this episode, we want to talk to someone from the other side of the aisle to get a different viewpoint from someone with lived experience in this area.

Why would you go to a healthcare provider for an infection or injury if you’re going to be lectured about your drug use, even if it has nothing to do with why you’re there? Or you might be forced to hand over your urine or have your possessions rifled through by a nurse. Even for people that don’t use illegal substances, our healthcare system is a nightmare to try and navigate. It only gets worse if you happen to self-medicate or enjoy chemicals that aren’t sanctioned by the FDA.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Danielle Russell of Phoenix, Arizona, who is currently a justice and social inquiry PhD student at Arizona State University. She studies how the criminalization of substances used for personal pleasure has become a key issue and tool for social control, contributing to the ongoing legacy of racialized criminalization and mass incarceration in the U.S. Having personally experienced many of the harms that impact people who use illicit drugs, she is passionate about mutual aid and working to change the structures that impose harms on the bodies of drug users. Her research interests are oriented towards community-based participatory research.

Follow Danielle on Twitter @DopefiendPhD and you can read the study she co-authored here:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33461838/

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 65: Restoring Trust in Doctors Amidst The Overdose Crisis with Dr. Ben Cocchiaro and Dr. Ashish Thakrar
Episode 48: Moms And Methadone with Elizabeth Brico
Episode 56: Drug Use During Disaster with Aaron Ferguson

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Holly Mangler
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Noun Project // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 66: Overlooking Alcohol and The Nature of Addiction with Dr. Stanton Peele

Booze is one of the most ancient and most prolific drugs in society, yet for some reason, it’s always placed in some separate category. Drugs and alcohol. Even at Narcotica, we’ve done over 65 episodes about drugs and not one of them has focused solely on ethanol. We just haven’t gotten to it yet, we’ve had so many other topics we’ve wanted to explore.

The relationship people have with alcohol is so illustrative of Western society’s perspective on addiction and substance use, which is linked to the idea that addiction is a disease. But this framework, while a step above the idea that addiction is a moral failing, is still very destructive.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah gets into why this is the case in an interview with Dr. Stanton Peele, a brilliant psychologist and the author of Love and Addiction, co-authored by Archie Brodsky, a 1975 book that has really turned the idea of addiction as a disease on its head. Many giants in drug policy analysis, including Maia Szalavitz and Dr. Carl Hart, have cited Love and Addiction as influential on their way of thinking.

Follow Stanton Peele on Twitter @speele5 and check out his new book, A Scientific Life on the Edge: My Lonely Quest to Change How We See Addiction.

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 33: Party and Play—An Intro to Chemsex with David Stuart
Episode 61: Undoing Drugs—Harm Reduction’s Early History with Maia Szalavitz
Episode 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Crowander
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Noun Project // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 65: Restoring Trust in Doctors Amidst The Overdose Crisis with Dr. Ben Cocchiaro and Dr. Ashish Thakrar

Over the past two decades, as fatal drug overdoses have risen precipitously, few professions have been hit harder by the crisis than the medical community. Physicians in particular have found themselves in the no-win position of being both blamed for the overdose crisis, which claimed more than 100,000 American lives in the past 12 months, while being tasked with containing it.

According to one dominant narrative, it was cavalier doctors who sparked the crisis in the first place, by overprescribing habit forming narcotic painkillers to millions of Americans after being softened up at lavish dinners and then duped by nefarious pharmaceutical reps using fudged data.

But that’s overly simplistic. For starters, it ignores the fact that the greatest spike in drug deaths came when doctors reigned in opioid prescribing after authorities started targeting so-called pill mills. This left tens of thousands of pain patients stranded and paved the way for the introduction of illicitly made fentanyl into the U.S. to fill unmet demands.

Narcotica co-host Christopher Moraff delves into this topic, asking how the medical community can work to restore trust from their patients who are justifiably suspicious of the U.S. healthcare system, speaking with doctors Ashish Thakrar and Ben Cocchiario, who both work for the University of Pennsylvania medical system in Philadelphia, a focal point of the overdose crisis. They cover everything from methadone prescribing to overfunding the DEA, all of it underlining the importance of patient autonomy.

Follow Ben Cocchiaro at UPenn
Follow Ashish Thakrar on Twitter @especially_APT

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 46: Behind The Pharmacists’ Counter with Jessica Moreno
Episode 36: Moral Hazards and Naloxone, A Toxicologist’s Perspective
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Stockvault // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 64: LSD And Psilocybin For Physical Pain? with Greg McKee and Dr. Johannes Ramaekers

These days, there isn’t an ailment some Silicon Valley-esque startup is trying to treat with psychedelics. Of course you have depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD and fear of death for the terminally ill—there’s some good data for treating all of that—but some of the more obscure treatments include anorexia and eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, dementia, and even rare conditions like fragile X syndrome.

Psychedelics are amazing drugs, but they’re not a panacea. It’s not that this research isn’t worth investigating, but how do you determine what’s just hype and what the actual potential of psilocybin, LSD, DMT, etc. really is?

It may be wise to be skeptical of psychedelics being used to treat physical pain. Yet while the research is very young, there is some fascinating evidence that psychedelics may help with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, cluster headaches and even phantom limb pain. And what’s interesting is so many different research institutions and corporations are exploring this question. It’s not exactly a fringe topic and Narcotica co-host Troy Farah dives in with two conversations.

The first is an interview with Greg McKee, CEO of Tryp Therapeutics, a California-based startup that is exploring chronic pain relief using psilocybin and another, psilocybin-based drug with an undisclosed formulation that is obliquely called TRP-8803. The company has partnered with the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study how these drugs might treat fibromyalgia and Tryp has added leading psychedelic researcher Robin Carhart-Harris to its scientific advisory board, where he will play a “critical role” in clinical trial design.

The second interview is with Dr. Johannes Ramaekers of Maastricht University, who says he is developing another pain study to look at psychedelics and fibromyalgia. He was the lead author of a very interesting study published in 2020 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that found that quote “low doses of LSD might constitute a novel pharmacological therapy.”

Read Troy’s article in Scientific American here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-psychedelic-drugs-treat-physical-pain/

Read Dr. Ramaekers’ pain and LSD study here: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0269881120940937

Learn more about Tryp Therapeutics at https://tryptherapeutics.com/

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 41: What Does It All Ketamine? with Dr. Erica Zelfand
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 25: Banning Kratom Will Escalate the Opioid Overdose Crisis with Walter Prozialeck

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: PXFuel // The Noun Project // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 63: Delta-8-THC And Other Obscure Cannabinoids with Jason Wilson

Nearly half the U.S. population now have access to adult-use cannabis. Marijuana is a medicine, if it’s cultivated or extracted right, and millions of people find relief or pleasure from this fantastic plant. But as legalization accelerates, regulations have struggled to keep up. Most experts and maybe many consumers would agree that cannabis is not well regulated or could use some improvements.

Meanwhile, new cannabinoids like delta-8-THC, THC-O and more are hitting the streets, licit and illicit. This is a rapidly changing environment, which is far beyond THC and CBD, the two most well-known drugs in marijuana. It leaves a lot of questions: Are these ‘new’ cannabinoids safe? What do they do in the body? What about vaping them?

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Jason Wilson of Medford Oregon, host of the Curious About Cannabis podcast, and author of the book of the same name, which can be found at CACpodcast.com. Jason is a biologist and science educator that has been studying the biochemistry of the cannabis plant and cannabis-derived products for nearly a decade. Jason has done work with groups like the International Institute for Cannabinoids (ICANNA) and serves as a member on the board of directors for the Oregon Cannabis Education and Resource Center.

Follow Jason on Twitter @AboutCannabis

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 53: A Life of Getting Lit with Tommy Chong
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 25: Banning Kratom Will Escalate the Opioid Overdose Crisis with Walter Prozialeck

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Done With Fish
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Flickr — Willpower Studios // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 62: Policing Pleasure — The Intersection of Sex Work and Drug Use with Tamika Spellman and Caty Simon

Sex work is work, just like coal mining, professional sports and literally any job that involves physical labor. So why is a show about drugs interested in sex work? For starters, there’s a lot of overlap in terms of harm reduction services that help people who use drugs and sex workers. Unfortunately, these services can be criminalized and weaponized against both communities.

One analogy is condoms and syringes: Syringes can be, and sadly often are, considered paraphernalia and evidence of illegal drug use. Believe it or not, police can, and do, consider condoms as evidence of engaging in sex work. Policing actively counteracts harm reduction services. Thus, there’s real reasons for solidarity among sex workers and drug users. And, as this episode will spell out, there are amazing activists who have bridged these communities together.

Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel, Troy Farah and Chris Moraff speak with Tamika Spellman and Caty Simon. Tamika is the Policy and Community Engagement Manager of HIPS, Honoring Individual Power and Strength, a Washington D.C. based organization advocating for the rights and health of people impacted by drug use and sex work since 1993.

Caty is a leadership team member and sex worker liaison for Urban Survivors Union, the American national drug users union, founding-co-organizer/executive director of Whose Corner Is It Anyway, a harm reduction, mutual aid, political education, and organizing group by and for low-income, street, and survival sex workers who use opioids and/or stimulants and/or experience housing insecurity.

Follow Caty on Instagram @marginalutilite and Tamika on Twitter @tamikahs66

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 26: Housing As Harm Reduction
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Aaron Ferguson
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Juno Mac Flickr edit: Troy Farah

Episode 61: Undoing Drugs—Harm Reduction’s Early History with Maia Szalavitz

We’re truly living through a disaster. Drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 to a record high 93,000. This is no longer an “opioid” crisis. What I mean is, 2020 overdose deaths linked to stimulants, especially methamphetamine, also broke records. The other key development here is the further entrenchment of illicit fentanyl in the drug supply, it’s a contamination at mass-scale. At this point, we’re in a poisoning crisis driven by one thing: prohibition.

But harm reduction is the movement that continues to push back against draconian drug policy, even when the odds seem against us. Longterm listeners of this show will be familiar with how harm reduction saves lives, but how did this movement get started in the first place?

To learn more, all three Narcotica co-hosts —Zachary Siegel, Troy Farah and Chris Moraff—speak with author Maia Szalavitz, whose new book Undoing Drugs—The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction—is available now. We discuss the struggles of syringe access in the early days to the present, the challenges of being a functioning drug user, and how harm reduction can help address policy changes beyond drugs.

Follow Maia on Twitter @maiasz

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us! Rate us! And thanks for your support!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 22: Changing the Narrative with Maia Szalavitz and Leo Beletsky
Episode 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Aaron Ferguson
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Piqsels edit: Troy Farah

Episode 60: Perinatal Panic—Drugs, Pregnancy and Stigma with Ria Tsinas, Joelle Puccio and Erika Goyer

One area where drug stigma especially persists, even among harm reduction advocates, is the prejudice against mothers and pregnant people who use drugs. Even some people in syringe exchange or who work in drug policy are against the idea of people with the capacity for pregnancy, (i.e. anyone with a uterus), using pretty much any drugs for any purpose.

It’s not clear why the principles of harm reduction that we extend to almost everyone else suddenly stop when it involves a fetus or a uterus. But the lives of pregnant people are no less important than anyone else who uses drugs, and the same attitudes of stigma, abstinence-only and surveillance don’t work here either—they just make the situation worse.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with not one, but three guests from the Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction, a non-profit that focuses on people with the capacity for pregnancy, who also happen to use drugs. They are:

Ria Tsinas, based in Portland, Oregon, who works at Outside In as a syringe exchange specialist and community health worker. She is also the mother of a wonderful kid.

Erika Goyer, based in Austin, Texas, Advocate at National Perinatal Association and co-founder at Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction. She is also a parent.

And Joelle Puccio, a travel nurse who is sometimes based in Seattle, Washington and works as a voard of directors at The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance.

Learn more at perinatalharmreduction.org/

Follow Joelle on Instagram @joellepuccio
Follow Ria on Instagram @gtsinas
Follow Erika on LinkedIn

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter, YouTube and support us on Patreon. Help keep this podcast ad-free! Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 48: Moms And Methadone with Elizabeth Brico
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 24: How To Get Abortion Pills Feat. Lynn Paltrow and Francine Coeytaux

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / done with fish
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay edit: Troy Farah

 

Episode 59: Psychedelic Extinction—How Poaching Endangers Some Psychoactive Plants with Dr. Anya Ermakova

Psychedelic drugs are well beyond the quote ‘renaissance’ stage and relatively recently entered a ‘gold rush’ as dozens of companies maneuver themselves to make this nascent industry as profitable as possible for themselves. At least that’s part of their motivation. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword for folks that want to see an end to the drug war, but also don’t want access to these substances available only through doctors and therapists.

While Big Pharma slowly ambles onward to transform psychedelics into the next blockbuster pharmaceutical, the plant medicine decriminalization movement is steadily growing in the United States and more and more people are taking plant-based psychedelics for spiritual, medicinal and yes, even recreational purposes. No judgment here.

The thriving popularity of naturally-occuring entheogens has sparked a lot of concern from some in the psychedelics community, who warn that overuse of these plants for any purpose could drive them to virtual extinction. Imagine if ayahuasca became like Silphium, the ancient contraceptive used by the Greeks and Romans that was consumed to such excess that it is now believed to have vanished from the earth. Could the same happen to psychedelic plants?

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Dr. Anya Ermakova, a researcher based in London with a very extensive background in conservation, ethnobotany, neuroscience, psychiatry and more, almost all of which relates back to psychedelics in some way. She has a master’s in Conservation Science from Imperial College London, a PhD in Psychiatry from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh. She’s worked as a science officer at the Beckley Foundation, and has provided psychedelic welfare and harm reduction services with PsycareUK and Zendo and so much more.

You can read Dr. Anya Ermakova’s research on ResearchGate.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

Some psychedelic plant organizations you can support include The Cactus Conservation Institute and Blessings of the Forest.

That paper on the jaguar trade and ayahuasca is here:
https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.126

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity with Ivan Casselman (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 35: Holding Space — The Values of Trip Sitting with Michelle Janikian
Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee


Producers: 
Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Kesta “Rekindle”
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Flickr edit: Troy Farah
(**Note: At one point Troy says that Indigenous people are afraid of losing the ‘privilege’ of having access to peyote, when it is more accurately described as a ‘right.’ A non-trivial distinction! We considered rerecording this question, but decided to leave it as is.)

Episode 58: How Racism Fuels The Drug War with Kassandra Frederique

Few social justice groups have put in as much work to end the war on (people who use) drugs like the Drug Policy Alliance. Since 2000, DPA has been behind some landmark drug reforms, such as leading a campaign to enact major reforms of New York’s notorious Rockefeller drug laws, assisting in a public education campaign that saw Uruguay legalize cannabis in 2013, not to mention funding and drafting the Oregon drug decriminalization measure that passed last year. According to the organization, DPA has played a pivotal role in roughly half of the campaigns that have legalized medical marijuana in the U.S.

Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel, Chris Moraff and Troy Farah speak with Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of DPA, who has been with the organization since 2009 as an intern. We discuss everything from racist policing, cannabis reform laws, and the future of drug policy reform.

This interview was recorded around the time of the Derek Chauvin trial, so some states, like New Mexico, had not yet legalized adult-use cannabis.

You can follow Kassandra Frederique on Twitter: @Kassandra_Fred and learn more about Drug Policy Alliance’s work at drugpolicy.org

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 44: Reimagining Public Health and Racial Justice with Dr. Ricky Bluthenthal
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 11: Beyond Borders — How the U.S. Exports Dangerous Drug Policy with Sanho Tree

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Aaron Ferguson / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay edit: Troy Farah

Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee

For many people, psychedelic drugs like LSD or psilocybin are their first major introduction to a profoundly altered state of consciousness. Mental conditions like autism or ADHD are other forms of consciousness, although they don’t wear off after 12 hours and so-called ‘neurotypical’ people often have misconceptions about these mental arrangements. Many folks with autism don’t see their condition as a defect or something to be fixed, an attitude that has sparked the neurodiversity movement. But, autism does come with its own set of challenges, some especially find difficulty in socializing with others.

A very early body of scientific research suggests that psychedelics could help with some of the challenges of autism. MAPS, for example, has explored using MDMA to treat social anxiety caused by autism. But some folks with autism aren’t waiting for the science to catch up and are trying psychedelics to explore how it can help some of the challenging aspects of autism.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Aaron Orsini, author of the book Autism On Acid: How LSD Helped Me Understand, Navigate, Alter & Appreciate My Autistic Perceptions and Justine Lee, a graduate student in pharmacology at UC Irvine with a B.S. in neurobiology.

You can follow Aaron Orsini on Twitter: @AutismOnAcid and order the anthology Autistic Psychedelic here.

Troy also wrote about this in Filter Magazine, so you can read more about the up-to-date science on this topic and how scientists are studying psychedelics with autism.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 35: Holding Space — The Values of Trip Sitting with Michelle Janikian
Episode 17: Using DMT To Contact Aliens

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Vuyvch
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay edit: Troy Farah

Episode 56: Drug Use During Disaster with Aaron Ferguson

Our planet is in crisis, plagued by an increase in wildfires, floods, hurricanes, freak storms and outbreaks of disease. As a result, we’re seeing more and more people isolated, left to fend for themselves, as the cracks in public infrastructure only seem to widen.

To use one prominent example, the state of Texas has been slapped with recurrent cataclysms and catastrophes of late, most recently the February winter storm that crushed the power grid, leading to food and water shortages, which left at least 111 people dead.

At Narcotica, we always wonder about what happens to people who use drugs whenever ecological disaster strikes. Co-hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Aaron Ferguson, who works as an outreach provider in Austin, Texas and is also on the leadership team of the National Drug Users Union. (Aaron was also a our co-producer on the show for about 20 episodes and volunteered to help with sound editing this one as well!)

We discuss everything from the evolving drug trade in Texas to the cult-like mentality that can sometimes manifest in the addiction recovery community and much more.

You can follow Aaron Ferguson on Twitter: @sciencenotheism and watch The Methadone Manifesto, a recent webinar hosted by the Urban Survivors Union. Aaron also co-authored a piece in the National Academy of Medicine discussing some of the public health challenges addiction treatment services faced during the recent Texas storm.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart
Episode 18: Drug User Unions – The Rebirth of Harm Reduction with Jess Tilley and Albie Park
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Suhov
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Justin L. Flickr edit: Troy Farah

Episode 55: Street Sampling Synthetics, from Carfentanil to Xylazine with Alex Krotulski

Amid a wave of synthetic drugs in recent years, Kensington, Pennsylvania has emerged as the locus for a different kind of experimentation, through a new generation of freelance entrepreneurs. Their bathtub chemistry is often guided by trial and error—leaving doctors, public health officials and harm reductionists struggling to understand the latest side effects.

Last year, a concerned toxicologist from the nonprofit Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE) at the Fredric Rieders Family Foundation, the academic and research arm of NMS Labs outside Philadelphia, conceived of a new testing program. It employs sophisticated mass spectrometry to reveal the composition of retail-level street drugs.

Alex Krotulski, an associate director of the CFSRE, spoke to Narcotica co-host Chris Moraff about everything from synthetic cannabinoids like 5F-APB to carfentanil to xylazine.

You can follow Alex Krotulski on Twitter: @alexkrotulski and read Chris’s report on this subject in Filter Magazine.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Suhov
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: edit: Troy Farah

Episode 54: West Virginia, America’s Worst Overdose and HIV Hotspot with Lauren Peace

There’s a “twindemic” raging across the state of West Virginia: Covid-19 has collided with an outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C. If that’s not bad enough, West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the nation. The CDC recently called the HIV outbreak in Kanawha County, West Virginia the “most concerning” in the country. Make no mistake, this outbreak is preventable, and is largely driven by the failure of local governments to provide syringe service programs to people who use drugs.

Even worse, West Virginia lawmakers are actively trying to pass legislation to further restrict harm reduction programs across the state. Covering this disaster of health and reactionary politics is Lauren Peace, a local investigative reporter at the nonprofit news outlet Mountain State Spotlight. Lauren has been providing vital on the ground coverage of embattled harm reduction programs—programs like Solutions Oriented Addiction Response (SOAR) that are working against a toxic backlash to prevent more HIV cases from spreading and save lives.

This episode is a one-on-one conversation with co-host Zachary Siegel and Lauren, who discusses what it’s like on the ground in West Virginia and the endless battle to put out science-based information in the face of stigma and misguided narratives about harm reduction. Plus, a bit of news at the top of the show about Biden’s pick for ONDCP director (read Zach’s piece in Filter) and Senate Bill 334, a piece of harmful legislation moving through West Virginia’s legislature.

You can follow Lauren on Twitter: @LaurenMPeace and read her work at Mountain State Spotlight.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Stitcher and more. Tell your friends about us!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 37: Covering Culture and Drugs with Substance with Kate Knibbs
Episode 19: Debunking Bupe Diversion Myths with Molly Doernberg
Episode 36: Moral Hazards and Naloxone, A Toxicologist’s Perspective with Ryan Marino

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Lasers
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Bill Dickinson via Flickr // edit: Troy Farah