aaron ferguson

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 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 34: “Inside the Bloody War on Drugs” with Antony Lowenstein

President Richard Nixon ignited the War on Drugs in 1971 by declaring drugs “public enemy No. 1.” Over the ensuing decades, the U.S. has turned the Drug War into a vital feature of its vast empire, exporting a drug policy of militant enforcement and harsh criminalization in Mexico, Latin America, South America, and beyond. Exactly how this war plays out––its victims, villains, and profiteers––is the subject of journalist Antony Lowenstein’s vivid new book, “Pills, Powder, and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs.” On Today’s episode, co-hosts Troy Farah and Zachary Siegel interview Lowenstein about what he saw on his journey chronicling the Drug War in countries like the Philippines, Australia, Honduras, and the U.S., among elsewhere.

You can follow Antony Lowenstein on Twitter and buy his book here.

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: Aaron Ferguson 
Music: Glass Boy / Monplaisir
Photo: Linnaea Mallette / Edit Troy Farah

Episode 33: Party and Play—An Intro to Chemsex with David Stuart

Aphrodisiacs are powerfully attractive for a reason. Sex is, after all, crucial to the survival of our species and it feels fucking amazing, so using chemicals that can make sex last longer, feel better or otherwise enhance the act is going to be like candy to a bunch of horny primates.

But the term chemsex—using drugs, or chemical enhancement, to prolong or alter sexual experiences—is actually specific to the gay community, or men who have sex with men. Drugs used have included methamphetamine, Viagra or sildenafil, cocaine, the anesthetic GHB, mephedrone (also known as ‘bath salts,’ although that’s a broad term), ketamine, and amyl nitrates or “poppers.”

Our guest today is David Stuart, who has spent decades as a fixture in London’s gay community. Stuart is an independent social worker and activist who actually coined the term ‘chemsex’ in the 1990’s. Stuart has witnessed the fundamental changes in the gay community as homosexuality has become more acceptable, but fleeting internet-based hook ups became increasingly ubiquitous, and in some cases fraught with potential medical and mental health risks.

You can follow David Stuart on Twitter and learn more about him at https://www.davidstuart.org/

Follow Narcotica on Facebook, Twitter 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: Aaron Ferguson 
Music: Glass Boy / Monplaisir
Photo: Linnaea Mallette / Edit Troy Farah

Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue

Doctors are often blamed for prescribing America into the opioid crisis. Their reckless actions, relying on opioids to relieve just about every morsel of pain, ignited the deadliest overdose crisis in history, so we’re told. Of course, the narrative around doctors is much more complex than that.

But one truth is inescapable: Without doctors prescribing methadone and buprenorphine, and taking care of some of the most marginalized people in the health care system, like incarcerated women, there is no end to the crisis in sight. Meet Dr. Kimberly Sue, the medical director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, and a leader in addiction medicine. Dr. Sue wrote a new book, Getting Wrecked: Women, Incarceration, and the American Opioid Crisis. In this episode, co-host Zachary Siegel interviews Dr. Sue, and they talk about women’s self-determination, the brutality of incarceration, and they imagine a world where women are treated humanely, not criminalized. 

Buy Dr. Sue’s book: https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520293212/getting-wrecked
Follow Dr. Sue on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DrKimSue

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: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy, Pictures of the Floating World

Episode 28: Antibiotic Resistance and Doping at the Olympics with Mike Pearl

Antibiotic resistance and doping at the Olympics are two pretty unrelated ideas, but they’re both covered in the new book ‘The Day It Finally Happens’ by author and journalist Mike Pearl, who sat down in Narcotica co-host Troy Farah’s kitchen.

Episode 27: What’s the Most Dangerous Drug?

Narcotica co-host Zachary Siegel was in Los Angeles for a conference on depicting drug use in Hollywood films and TV shows, so co-host Troy Farah trudged down from the High Desert and they recorded an episode in a hotel room. Despite doing Narcotica for well over a year, the pair hadn’t met in person before. (Chris Moraff couldn’t make this episode.) Picking an impromptu topic, they decided to riff on a recent USA Today article titled “The 25 most dangerous drugs.”

So… what is the most dangerous drug? Alcohol? Carfentanil? Acetaminophen? And what is with the obsession with ranking these things? Lots of riffing and banter in this episode, so take some of this info with a grain of salt (it’s not medical advice) and we’ll be back to interviewing policy experts and drug nerds next week.

Plus, we hope to get together in person with Chris in St. Louis this November 6th to 9th, for the Drug Policy Reform conference. More details here: http://www.reformconference.org/

Read the USA Today article here:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/07/31/opioid-epidemic-25-most-dangerous-drugs-side-effects-death-rates/39807161/

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated! We’re on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, Sticher and more. Tell your friends about us!
Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy, Aaron Ferguson
Image: Pixabay, edit by Troy Farah

Episode 26: Housing As Harm Reduction

Sarn is a Pathway to Housing participant in Philadelphia via Chris Moraff

The Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia is often described as “ground zero” in the overdose crisis. The New York Times Magazine gave Kensington’s open air drug market the dubious title, “The Walmart of Heroin.” Of course, if you take a tour of Kensington without a DEA agent nearby, you might meet someone like Sarn, who after years of unstable housing and chaotic drug use, now has his own place to live. Operating from a Housing First model, organizations like Pathways to Housing are fighting the tides of endemic poverty, homelessness, and addiction. On today’s show, the crew interviews Sarn and Matt Tice, of Pathways to Housing, about how “Housing First” is a critical response to Philly’s overdose crisis.

Follow Matt Tice on Twitter and learn more about Pathways on their website.

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

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson 
Music: Glass Boy, Aaron Ferguson
Image: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah

Episode 25: Banning Kratom Will Escalate the Opioid Overdose Crisis with Walter Prozialeck

Kratom, a strange plant from Southeast Asia has become one of the most controversial herbs in the United States. In this episode, Troy Farah breaks down the risks and potential benefits of this unique tree and why banning it would likely lead to a devastating increase in deaths in the opioid overdose crisis with Walter Prozialeck, a pharmacology professor at Midwestern University, who has a long-standing interest in herbal medicine, including marijuana and kratom. Topics discussed on this episode, recorded June 26, include why people use kratom, the pharmacokinetics of kratom alkaloids including actual overdose potential, cicadas infected with psilocybin-producing fungi, conspiracy theories about former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and much more.

Read Prozialeck’s paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.05.003

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

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy, Ian Sutherland and Junglemire
Additional audio engineering: Troy Farah
Image Credit: Wikipedia / edit by Troy Farah

Episode 24: How To Get Abortion Pills Feat. Lynn Paltrow and Francine Coeytaux

What does abortion access have to do with the war on drugs? EVERYTHING. On this episode, we talk about some of the most controversial drugs of them all, drugs that are often overlooked in the debate about reforming drug policy: abortifacients, drugs that induce miscarriage, ending pregnancies. Specifically, misoprostol and mifepristone. We speak with Lynn Paltrow, the founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and Francine Coeytaux co-founder of Plan C Pills, co-founder of the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research, and a founder of the Pacific Institute for Women’s Health.

If you need to obtain abortion pills, for any reason, for yourself, for your mother, for your sister, or your neighbor, go to PlanCPills.org or AidAccess.org.

You can order these drugs discreetly and they will arrive at your door with your Amazon packages and student loan bills. Here are also abortion funds in states where regressive laws are threatening a woman’s right to choose:

https://abortionfunds.org/fund/yellowhammer-fund/
https://abortionfunds.org/fund/gateway-womens-access-fund
/
Here’s a great list from Bustle: https://www.bustle.com/p/11-abortion-funds-in-alabama-georgia-kentucky-other-states-you-can-donate-to-rn-17895282
You can find Lynn Paltrow on Twitter at @LynnPaltrow and advocatesforpregnantwomen.org
Learn more about Francine Coeytaux in this New York Times piece.


You can find Lynn Paltrow on Twitter at @LynnPaltrow and advocatesforpregnantwomen.org
Learn more about Francine Coeytaux in this New York Times piece.

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

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Additional audio engineering: Troy Farah

Episode 23: Bring Back Prescription Heroin! with Travis Lupick

With perhaps the exception of fentanyl, no drug is seen as more dangerous or controversial than heroin. But when you look at decades of medical literature, it’s clear that heroin, also known as diacetylmorphine, is just another opioid, and it has a place in medicine. On this episode, Troy Farah and Zachary Siegel discuss the controversial idea of prescription heroin with Canadian journalist Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space.

You can follow Travis Lupick @tlupick Twitter here.

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

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Image Credit: Wikipedia / Edit by Troy Farah

Episode 22: Changing the Narrative with Maia Szalavitz and Leo Beletsky

On this episode Narcotica highlights a new project from the Health in Justice Action Lab at Northeastern University called Changing The Narrative, which aims to correct flawed narratives about drugs, debunked myths, old tropes, and stigmatizing language in mainstream media.

Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

via Troy Farah

In this episode, Chris and Zach sit down with Eliza Wheeler of the Harm Reduction Coalition in San Francisco. Wheeler has been working in harm reduction, distributing syringes and naloxone directly to people who use drugs, for over two decades. She’s seen a lot of progress in her lifetime. But as harm reduction goes mainstream, Wheeler sees how easily the bedrock values and principles of the movement can be compromised and coopted by political forces. Zach, Chris, and Eliza talk about how funds for naloxone get in the wrong hands, how syringe exchanges deal with NIMBYism, and how the heart of her harm reduction philosophy is bodily autonomy.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated!

Follow the DOPE Project ‏and the Harm Reduction Coalition on Twitter.

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Image Credit: Chris Moraff / Edit by Troy Farah

Episode 19: Debunking Bupe Diversion Myths with Molly Doernberg

If you ask many, many people whose lives have been upended by opioids, buprenorphine is a life saver. It can literally cut the risk of a fatal overdose by half or more in folks who have an opioid addiction. Also known as Subutex or Suboxone, buprenorphine is one of the three FDA approved medications to treat what’s formally known as opioid use disorder. It’s a partial agonist at opioid receptors, relieving cravings but with far less risk for overdose than other opioids like heroin, which are full agonists.

Zachary Siegel, Troy Farah and Christopher Moraff speak with Molly Doernberg, a grad student at Yale School of Public Health, who co-authored a recent paper called “Demystifying buprenorphine misuse: Has fear of diversion gotten in the way of addressing the opioid crisis?” which was published in the journal Substance Abuse last April. They discuss what buprenorphine is, why people take it, and why stigma and fears that buprenorphine may be used illicitly are actually contributing to more overdose deaths.



Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated!

Read Doernberg’s paper here: https://doi.org/10.1080/08897077.2019.1572052 and follow her on Twitter.

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Image Credit: Chris Moraff / Edit by Troy Farah

Episode 18: Drug User Unions – The Rebirth of Harm Reduction with Jess Tilley and Albie Park

In this episode, Zach and Troy interview two veteran harm reduction activists: Jess Tilley and Albie Park. Jess and Albie have organized on behalf of drug users for decades, building community to ensure that no one has to die a preventable overdose death. You’ll learn about how they met, how they work, and what policies and ideas they are currently prioritizing. You’ll also hear about what they envision for the future of harm reduction in the midst of, in Jess’s words, an “overdose apocalypse.” Zach and Troy mostly let them do the talking. Enjoy.

Harm Reduction Hedgehogs /@HRH413/Media Toolkit

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: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy
Image: edit: Troy Farah

Episode 17: Using DMT To Contact Aliens with Andrew Gallimore

Psychedelic drugs are weird, but DMT has to be one of the weirdest. Best known as the principle psychoactive ingredient in ayahuasca, this drug, N,N-Dimethyltryptamine, occurs naturally in many plants and animals. Troy Farah interviews Andrew Gallimore, a computational neurobiologist, pharmacologist and DMT enthusiast, and author of the new book ‘Alien Information Theory.’ With a healthy dose of skepticism, they discuss hyperspace realms and building a machine that makes DMT trips last for hours on end.

DMT is commonly called the quote ’Spirit molecule’ because while tons of psychedelics offer spiritual insight, DMT is in a category all its own. It can allegedly transport you to another dimension, where you will be greeted by vibrating, chattering ‘machine elves,’ as Terrence McKenna commonly called them. The experience is nothing short of life-changing, yet only lasts about 15 minutes. Are they aliens, spiritual beings or just hallucinations? We’ll let you decide.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated!

Find Andrew on Twitter or http://www.buildingalienworlds.com

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Image Credit: Wikipedia / Composite by Troy Farah

Episode 15: Accurate, Compassionate Drug Journalism with Filter Magazine

Mainstream media doesn’t really ‘get’ drugs, but there’s one place that has consistently gotten it right: Filter Magazine. Narcotica hosts Christopher Moraff, Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Filter’s co-founder and editor-in-chief Will Godfrey. This conversation covers a lot of ground on media literacy and compassionate reporting on drug use.

Full disclosure: all three of us at Narcotica have worked with Godfrey in some way. But we completely support the work that Filter is doing, which is what we hope Narcotica accomplishes: responsible, scientific, and compassionate reporting on drugs.

Learn more about Filter Magazine on their website and follow Will Godfrey on Twitter.

Follow Narcotica on Facebook, Twitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated!

Producer: Christopher Moraff / Troy Farah
Image credit: Eduardo Verdugo
Music: KieLoKaz, Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson — https://soundcloud.com/knowmad1