drug podcast

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.

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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.

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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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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

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Photo credit: 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.

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Photo credit: 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

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Photo credit: Nigel Brunsdon

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


*WARNING: 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/

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Photo by 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.

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