Episode 37: Covering Culture and Drugs with Substance with Kate Knibbs

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. 

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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