christopher moraff

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

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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

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/

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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

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 23: Bring Back Prescription Heroin!

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 21: Ethically Documenting Drug Use Activism

Sometimes, you’ll be reading a great piece on the drug overdose crisis that is just ruined by a crappy stock image of a gigantic syringe and a mountain of what is obviously flour or someone nodding out on the sidewalk. On this episode, Narcotica explores what accurate, tactful drug imagery should look like.

The team speaks with Nigel Brunsdon, the official/unofficial photographer of the modern day harm reduction movement, who is joining us via from the UK. He has shadowed the Chicago Recovery Alliance, Harm Reduction International, and many others on the front lines of the so-called drug war. His photos of the workers, advocates, people who use drugs, and the academics are loaded with grief, emotion, hope, and solidarity. He explains balancing privilege, relationships and representation of impacted communities through drug war photojournalism.

Follow Nigel on his website nigelbrunsdon.com and check out harmreductionphilosophy.com for more on how harm reduction works as an ideology.

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We talk a lot about this image that we used from Nigel for Episode 3, memorializing harm reduction activist Dan Bigg. Here it is for reference:


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

Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction

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.

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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

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.



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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 17: Using DMT To Contact Aliens

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.

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Find Andrew on Twitter or 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 16: The Crew Interviews the Crackdown’s Garth Mullins

Canada’s Downtown Eastside in Vancouver is known around the world as a city of pain and trauma. That’s not the whole story. Vancouver has produced trailblazing harm reduction activists and scholars who have changed the fabric of drug user health care. The Crackdown is a podcast that features some of the bravest activists who are pushing the envelope in drug policy. In this episode, Chris, Troy, and Zach interview Garth Mullins, host of The Crackdown, about what spawned the show, the differences between American and Canadian drug policy, and what journalism looks like when it is owned and produced by drug users. Check out The Crackdown.

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Producer: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson — https://soundcloud.com/knowmad1

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.

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

Episode 14: Harm Reduction Dies in Darkness—Jeff Deeney

Few would disagree with the notion that the United States government has dropped the ball on responding to the opioid crisis, particularly the threat posed by illicitly manufactured fentanyl in the heroin supply. That’s the basis of a new piece called “The Fentanyl Failure,” a Washington Post investigation into the Obama Administration. Only, there’s just one problem: the sources used by the Washington Post are angry drug warriors and zealous prosecutors who are mad that Obama didn’t let them lock up enough dealers. In this episode of Narcotica, co-host Zachary Siegel and special guest Jeff Deeney deconstruct the Washington Post’s exposé. They discuss the ways in which the supply-side narrative is for Serious People while harm reduction activism and interventions that actually save lives are still to the side in policy debates.  Follow Jeff Deeney.

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Producers: Chris Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Engineer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy, Aaron Ferguson

Episode 12: Beyond Borders — “El Chapo” and the Mexican Fentanyl Pipeline

This week Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán was convicted by the U.S. government. Guzman rose to prominence in the Sinaloa Federation drug trafficking organization, where he allegedly became the most prolific and successful drug profiteer in history.


From 2008 until his second capture in 2014, Guzman’s pharmaceutical manufacturing giant, if you will, was the primary supplier of illicit marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to the United States.

During Guzman’s rein, Mexico’s drug trafficking gangs experienced a tenuous but measurable peace, known among academics as Pax Sinaloa. But now that a head of the hydra has been severed, who knows what will emerge. On this episode, Narcotica’s Christopher Moraff spoke with VICE News editor Keegan Hamilton, who has been closely tracking this trial since it began.

Follow Keegan Hamilton on Twitter.

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Producer: Christopher Moraff / Troy Farah
Image credit: Eduardo Verdugo
Music: Scanglobe, Glass Boy, and Fourmi
Thanks to the VICE offices for letting us record in their studio.

Episode 11: Beyond Borders — How the U.S. Exports Dangerous Drug Policy

America practically invented prohibition, or at least popularized it to the point where nearly every country models itself after U.S. drug policy. The results have been nothing short of disastrous. Troy Farah talks with foreign policy expert Sanho Tree about how the ‘Land of the Free’ have exported draconian drug laws, enslaving the rest of the planet. This discussion covers poppy fields in Afghanistan, Central American migrants fleeing gangs, the Bolivian model for cocaine regulation, death squads in the Philippines and how Trump’s wall is just more bad drug policy.


Follow Sanho Tree on Twitter.

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Producer: Troy Farah
Image credit: Alastair Rae, Flickr / Edit by Troy Farah
Music: Inaequalis and Glass Boy

Episode 9: Speed Up, Slow Down Pt. 3 — The Cocaine Fentanyl Blues

For more than a century, Americans have had a love-hate relationship with cocaine. Once viewed as a cure-all tonic for everything from hemorrhoids to morphine addiction, the drug has inspired infamous rock songs and brought people to their knees.

In the third and final segment of Narcotica’s ‘Speed Up, Slow Down’ series on stimulants, reporter Christopher Moraff examines the strange and perplexing history of cocaine and it’s latest demonization—fentanyl adulteration. He speaks with toxicologist Kevin Shanks, Dennis Cauchon of Harm Reduction Ohio and fentanyl test strip guru Tino Fuentes.

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Photo credit: Christopher Moraff, edit by Troy Farah.

Episode 8: Collateral Damage—Patients Fight Back

With the midterms just days away, Zach, Chris and Troy explore America’s newest marginalized political constituency—millions of people with chronic pain or illness that have been ground under the wheel of American opioid policy. We speak with Lauren DeLuca, President of Chronic Illness Advocacy & Awareness Group about how we got here and how the sickest Americans can we come one of the strongest political forces in coming years.

Listen HERE

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Photo credit: K-State Research and Extension, edit by Troy Farah.

Episode 7: Drug War Déjà Vu

Narcotica co-host Zachary Siegel moderated a panel at the 12th National Harm Reduction Conference in New Orleans. The panel was the brainchild of the Drug Policy Alliance’s Michael Collins, titled: Drug War Déjà Vu: How harm reductionists can push back against drug-induced homicide laws, harsh fentanyl penalties, and the further demonization of drug users.” Panelists include Lindsay LaSalle (Drug Policy Alliance), Jasmine Tyler (Human Rights Watch), William Miller Jr. (BMore Power), and Dan Ciccarone (UCSF).

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Learn more about HRC at: http://harmreduction.org/conference/

Photo credit: Logan, edit by Troy Farah.

Episode 6: Speed Up, Slow Down Pt. 2 — Myth Evolution: From Crack Kids to Addicted Babies

In the ’80s, a rampant fear of “crack babies” permeated the mainstream media. But the claims of kids deformed due to crack cocaine turned out to be bullshit. Troy Farah reports on how this urban legend originated, and how it’s morphed into another false narrative: the addicted baby myth. Plus, we examine why pregnant drug users face so much greater stigma than others. We speak with Dr. Carl Hart, a neuroscientist and the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, as well as Cherisse Scott, founder of Sister Reach, which fights for reproductive justice.

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More info:
Dr. Carl Harthttp://drcarlhart.com/
Cherisse Scotthttp://sisterreach.org/
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