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:
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
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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
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