canada

Hot Spots 1 – 3 Arizona, Iowa and Nova Scotia

Pretty much everyone on the planet is being impacted by Covid-19 right now. Harm reduction services like syringe access programs or supervised consumption sites are no exception. But for some people, these services are not just their lifeline, they’re the only healthcare they receive, period. And when hospitals and doctor’s offices are already stretched thin, it can lead to a lot of potentially harmful situations. 

At Narcotica, we’re introducing a new miniseries called Hot Spots, where we’re going to call up people in harm reduction across the country and ask them how coronavirus has impacted their services and the people they help. 

We have three shorter interviews, which equal a full episode. First up, we have a segment from Troy Farah, talking to Thoi at Shot in the Dark in Phoenix about getting creative with syringe access during the pandemic. Then Philly’s Christopher Moraff talks to Matthew Bonn in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia about services offered in Canada and the local drug trade there, and I round out the hour with Sarah Ziegenhorn, the executive director at the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, about what happens when services suddenly ghost their clients.

Follow Sarah Ziegenhorn on Twitter @sarah_ziggy, Matthew Bonn @matthew__bonn and Thoi @bjthoi

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: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy
Image: Pixabay / edit: Troy Farah

Episode 41: What Does It All Ketamine?

Ketamine is one of the most versatile drugs on Earth, an amazing anesthetic that can relieve pain without the same risk of respiratory failure as opioids (nothing against them, of course.) Overwhelming evidence also suggests ketamine can rapidly reverse suicidal thoughts, making it a potent treatment for PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. 

Last year, a specialized blend of ketamine called esketamine was approved by the FDA to treat depression, the first new major depression drug in more than 30 years, but its use has proven controversial. Meanwhile, dozens of clinics are popping up across North America, offering off-label use of ketamine to treat a wide range of issues. 

Yet, somehow ketamine is most often conflated with recreational use because it can give an ecstatic, lucid, out-of-body trip known as a dissociative hallucination. According to several surveys, including one published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, ketamine has the highest semantic similarity to a near-death experience. What is it about this intriguing drug that makes it so popular, both clinically and elsewhere?

Our guest is Dr. Erica Zelfand, an integrative and functional medicine physician, who has written about how to get the most of ketamine therapy.

You can follow Dr. Erica Zelfand on Facebook and learn more at https://ericazelfand.com/

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!

Shout-out to one of our longest Patreon supporters, Trystereo, a volunteer-run harm reduction collective in New Orleans that has been one of our earliest fans. They’re doing great work in Louisiana offering overdose prevention tools and free safer drug use and sex supplies. We rely on contributors like Trystereo to keep the lights on and free of corporate influence. Find out more at trystereo.org

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Pictures of the Floating World
Image: louise stockton / edit: Troy Farah
Two clarifications we want to make: In the intro, we say that “no other drug will make you feel like you died and left your body.” We mean *compared to ketamine.* So there’s no room for confusion, we obviously weren’t implying ketamine is the only drug that is like a near-death experience, ketamine is simply the closest, and this semantic similarity is based on a number of surveys, which are not necessarily fully reliable as they are self-reported.

Second, around the 44:00 mark, we used Compass Pathways as an example of a company that is doing psychedelic research, but didn’t mean to also imply that they are opening ketamine clinics. Many psychedelic research companies, including Mind Medicine Inc, Mindbloom, and Field Trip Health, are going this route, but so far Compass is focused solely on psilocybin. We care deeply about accuracy at Narcotica, so this is just for clarity’s sake.


Episode 38: Dead People Don’t Recover — The Importance of Safe Supply

Public officials have been yelling from the rooftops that there’s an opioid epidemic. Yes, an obscene number of people are dying from overdoses, many of which involve opioids. But they’re not quite right. Researchers who really get what’s going on describe what’s happening to the U.S. drug supply over the last few years as a mass poisoning. Were it not for potent fentanyl analogues being sold in heroin markets, many, many lives would be spared. 

That’s where the concept of a safe drug supply comes in. Troy and Zach speak with Dr. Mark Tyndall, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, and the founder of My Safe Project, a vending machine that dispenses hydromorphone pills, otherwise known as dilaudid. Mark says this program is saving lives. We cut through some of the bullshit arguments about diversion, “enabling” drug use and other pearl-clutching fears, but also talk about safe supply for stimulants and benzos, and how this program is already changing lives.

Follow Dr. Mark Tyndall on Twitter @DrMtyndall

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: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Garrett Farah
Photo: PXFuel // Edit Troy Farah

Episode 37: Covering Culture and Drugs with Substance

It’s difficult to write about drugs without being steeped and schooled in the discourse. Cultural tropes and conventional wisdom dominates the space. Drugs are anthropomorphized as the enemy. People who use drugs are described as manipulative and selfish, unless, of course, they’re “clean.” Often there is little empirical research cited and the same old voices are quoted saying the same old thing. Writers may think they’re being empathetic when really they’re reinforcing stigma, criminalization, and the very narratives that propel dangerous policy in the first place. 

At Narcotica, we look out for people who do things differently and like to hear them out. For this episode, co-host Zachary Siegel sits down with culture writer and journalist Kate Knibbs, whose writing about drugs and harm reduction stands out as uniquely humanizing. Approaching drugs and harm reduction from culture angles, Kate’s work tells us about the way live now. Their conversation focuses on two stories Kate wrote while working at The Ringer. First, the bizarre story of a music blogger at Vice who was caught smuggling a lot of cocaine. Then, they shift gears and discuss a piece about supervised consumption sites. Kate and Zach both get deep, and talk about the aftermath of friends and loved ones who overdose, and the impulse to search for accountability and punish people.
Follow Kate Knibbs on Twitter and look out for her work at WIRED, where she’s now a staff writer. 

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: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Garrett Farah
Photo: Nick YoungsonCC BY-SA 3.0Alpha Stock Images Edit Troy Farah