drug podcast

Episode 65: Restoring Trust in Doctors Amidst The Overdose Crisis with Dr. Ben Cocchiaro and Dr. Ashish Thakrar

Over the past two decades, as fatal drug overdoses have risen precipitously, few professions have been hit harder by the crisis than the medical community. Physicians in particular have found themselves in the no-win position of being both blamed for the overdose crisis, which claimed more than 100,000 American lives in the past 12 months, while being tasked with containing it.

According to one dominant narrative, it was cavalier doctors who sparked the crisis in the first place, by overprescribing habit forming narcotic painkillers to millions of Americans after being softened up at lavish dinners and then duped by nefarious pharmaceutical reps using fudged data.

But that’s overly simplistic. For starters, it ignores the fact that the greatest spike in drug deaths came when doctors reigned in opioid prescribing after authorities started targeting so-called pill mills. This left tens of thousands of pain patients stranded and paved the way for the introduction of illicitly made fentanyl into the U.S. to fill unmet demands.

Narcotica co-host Christopher Moraff delves into this topic, asking how the medical community can work to restore trust from their patients who are justifiably suspicious of the U.S. healthcare system, speaking with doctors Ashish Thakrar and Ben Cocchiario, who both work for the University of Pennsylvania medical system in Philadelphia, a focal point of the overdose crisis. They cover everything from methadone prescribing to overfunding the DEA, all of it underlining the importance of patient autonomy.

Follow Ben Cocchiaro at UPenn
Follow Ashish Thakrar on Twitter @especially_APT

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 46: Behind The Pharmacists’ Counter with Jessica Moreno
Episode 36: Moral Hazards and Naloxone, A Toxicologist’s Perspective
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, 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!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Stockvault // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 64: LSD And Psilocybin For Physical Pain? with Greg McKee and Dr. Johannes Ramaekers

These days, there isn’t an ailment some Silicon Valley-esque startup is trying to treat with psychedelics. Of course you have depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD and fear of death for the terminally ill—there’s some good data for treating all of that—but some of the more obscure treatments include anorexia and eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, dementia, and even rare conditions like fragile X syndrome.

Psychedelics are amazing drugs, but they’re not a panacea. It’s not that this research isn’t worth investigating, but how do you determine what’s just hype and what the actual potential of psilocybin, LSD, DMT, etc. really is?

It may be wise to be skeptical of psychedelics being used to treat physical pain. Yet while the research is very young, there is some fascinating evidence that psychedelics may help with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, cluster headaches and even phantom limb pain. And what’s interesting is so many different research institutions and corporations are exploring this question. It’s not exactly a fringe topic and Narcotica co-host Troy Farah dives in with two conversations.

The first is an interview with Greg McKee, CEO of Tryp Therapeutics, a California-based startup that is exploring chronic pain relief using psilocybin and another, psilocybin-based drug with an undisclosed formulation that is obliquely called TRP-8803. The company has partnered with the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study how these drugs might treat fibromyalgia and Tryp has added leading psychedelic researcher Robin Carhart-Harris to its scientific advisory board, where he will play a “critical role” in clinical trial design.

The second interview is with Dr. Johannes Ramaekers of Maastricht University, who says he is developing another pain study to look at psychedelics and fibromyalgia. He was the lead author of a very interesting study published in 2020 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology that found that quote “low doses of LSD might constitute a novel pharmacological therapy.”

Read Troy’s article in Scientific American here: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-psychedelic-drugs-treat-physical-pain/

Read Dr. Ramaekers’ pain and LSD study here: https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0269881120940937

Learn more about Tryp Therapeutics at https://tryptherapeutics.com/

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 41: What Does It All Ketamine? with Dr. Erica Zelfand
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 25: Banning Kratom Will Escalate the Opioid Overdose Crisis with Walter Prozialeck

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, 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!

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: PXFuel // The Noun Project // edit: Troy Farah

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 12: Beyond Borders — “El Chapo” and the Mexican Fentanyl Pipeline with Keegan Hamilton

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.

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

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 10: Did The FDA Just Say Kratom Is Illegal?

For the last several years there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding a drug called kratom, a plant from Southeast Asia that is used by millions of Americans to relieve pain and anxiety. The federal government has said this drug has high potential for abuse and has been quietly waging a war against kratom, leaving many people to wonder when, not if, it will be banned. That day seems to be today: Tuesday, November 27 2018.

A new announcement by the Food and Drug Administration today says “Kratom is not legally marketed in the U.S. as a drug or dietary supplement.” This is a distinction that the FDA has made before, but never so blatantly. This puts kratom in a precarious position and invites police departments across the country to now raid anyone who sells it. We spoke to Drew Turner, a longtime kratom advocate from Washington, D.C., about the changes this will make.

For more info on what kratom is, how dangerous it is (or isn’t) and how it affects people, check out this primer here.

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

Producer: Troy Farah
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / Edit by Troy Farah
Music: Krackatoa and Glass Boy

EDIT: In the podcast, it’s said that this legal distinction has not been made before. The statement was found at least once before buried deep in a press release and the FDA has never clarified this before. The FDA may say that’s always been their stance, but if so, then they haven’t been enforcing it, and this still could signal big changes to come. We regret the error.

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.

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

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

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

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).

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

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.

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

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, 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 38: Dead People Don’t Recover — The Importance of Safe Supply with Mark Tyndall
Episode 33: Party and Play—An Intro to Chemsex with David Stuart
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Photo credit: PXHere, edit by Troy Farah

Media clips:
Partnership for a Drug-Free America “Baby Bottle” (1992, USA)
Crack Babies: A Tale From the Drug Wars | Retro Report | The New York Times
Presidential Debate 1992 #1
Born Addicted: 1 2 3 4 5

More resources:
Substance use during pregnancy: time for policy to catch up with research
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC419718/

Substance use during pregnancy: time for policy to catch up with research
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC419718/

Criminal Charges for Child Harm from Substance Use in Pregnancy
http://jaapl.org/content/45/2/193#T1

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/baby-opioids/

https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/bj75n5/baby-opioid-addicts-dont-exist

Open Letter to Journalists and Editors About “Addicted Babies”

http://www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/issues/pregnancy_and_drug_use_the_facts/

Shattering The Myth Of The ‘Addicted Baby’

http://discovermagazine.com/2006/dec/crack-baby-unfounded-stigma

View at Medium.com

 

Episode 5: Speed Up, Slow Down Pt. 1

With all the focus on opioids, Narcotica has decided to launch a series on stimulants called “Speed Up, Slow Down.” In the first installment, Zachary Siegel takes a critical look at how media depicts meth and cocaine use. He interviews two users about how stimulants actually help them function. Then, he talks to Sheila Vakharia from the Drug Policy Alliance about harm reduction, and Kat Humphries from the Harm Reduction Action Center about her “Methamphetazine” that features art from Denver stimulant users.

Download link for the zine.

More info on harm reduction for stimulants here. Follow Sheila Vakharia: @MyHarmReduction

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, 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 38: Dead People Don’t Recover — The Importance of Safe Supply with Mark Tyndall
Episode 33: Party and Play—An Intro to Chemsex with David Stuart
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Composite of Wikimedia images by Troy Farah

Episode 4: Supervised Consumption Breaks Rod Rosenstein’s Brain

In response to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s outrageous supervised consumption op-ed in the New York Times, the Narcotica team speaks with Laura Thomas, of the Drug Policy Alliance, who broke down the obstacles harm reduction workers face in opening a site in the United States. Thomas, who is deputy state director at DPA, has been championing supervised consumption sites for over a decade, because she knows what the data says: SCS save lives.

But how long until we see a facility in the U.S.? We discuss the status of many projects in Washington, New York, and California, and what kind of fight we can expect from the Department of Justice.

You can follow Laura on Twitter @LThomas and learn more about the Drug Policy Alliance at drugpolicy.org.

Follow Narcotica on Instagram, 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 26: Housing As Harm Reduction
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Composite by Troy Farah

Episode 3: Remembering Dan Bigg, Naloxone Renegade

Dan Bigg, activist, visionary, and harm reduction pioneer, died on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. In this episode, Zach Siegel interviews journalist Max Blau, who has been researching the history of naloxone, about Bigg’s radical legacy.

You can follow Max on Twitter @MaxBlau

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
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Nigel Brunsdon

Episode 2: Anthony Bourdain, Suicide and the Myth of Cross Addiction

*CW: Suicide is discussed on this episode.*

Narcotica heard that members of the addiction recovery community were wildly speculating about whether or not drinking played a role in Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. Not only do we think that speaking for someone who cannot speak for themselves—especially someone like Bourdain, who was an incredibly empathetic human being and storyteller—is a shitty thing to do. But to do it without any shred of evidence or rigor, makes it all even worse. In this episode, more commentary than radio magazine format, Troy, Zach, and Chris, discuss the CDC’s latest suicide report, and cross addiction, a popular myth that people who recover from addictions continue to believe.

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

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
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pete Souza.

 

 

Episode 1: Opioid of the Masses

Episode 1 of Narcotica is here! In the first segment Zachary Siegel does some mythbusting around overdosing by touching fentanyl; Troy Farah gives a nuanced take on what’s driving the overdose crisis; and Christoper Moraff talks with experts and drug users about the disease-model of addiction.

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!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 44: Reimagining Public Health and Racial Justice with Dr. Ricky Bluthenthal
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 11: Beyond Borders — How the U.S. Exports Dangerous Drug Policy with Sanho Tree

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Jon Ehrens
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Public domain photo