drug policy

Episode 39: Pain Patients Are Still Fighting For Their Lives

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out guidelines for primary care doctors prescribing opioids to treat chronic pain. Essentially, these guidelines stated that opioids should not be the first line treatment for pain, and that other methods should be tried first. Which is perfectly sensible.

But when it came to dosing and duration, these guidelines — not laws — guidelines, started to become widely misinterpreted. We don’t need to get in the weeds of morphine milligram equivalents here, but what wound up happening across the country is that doctors, medical boards, and even legislators took the guidelines as black letter law. And clearly mistook the intended audience for the guidelines: primary care providers. Not pain management specialists, primary care providers. The one you might go see for a wellness check up or if you have strep throat.

Why is all this important? Aren’t prescription opioids, after all, the very substance that ignited a massive wave of overdose deaths across the country? It’s not so simple. Well intended efforts to reduce everyday people’s exposure to high doses and long durations of opioids started to hit the wrong target: patients with chronic, intractable, debilitating pain.

And we have an excellent guest, civil rights attorney, writer, and advocate, Kate Nicholson. Kate has been a critical asset for the pain community, who has been speaking up about how policy intended to help is actually causing more harm. She has consulted on several Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro and even Joe Biden.

Follow Kate Nicholson on Twitter @speakingabtpain

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 / A A Aalto
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner // Edit Troy Farah

Episode 34: “Inside the Bloody War on Drugs”

President Richard Nixon ignited the War on Drugs in 1971 by declaring drugs “public enemy No. 1.” Over the ensuing decades, the U.S. has turned the Drug War into a vital feature of its vast empire, exporting a drug policy of militant enforcement and harsh criminalization in Mexico, Latin America, South America, and beyond. Exactly how this war plays out––its victims, villains, and profiteers––is the subject of journalist Antony Lowenstein’s vivid new book, “Pills, Powder, and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs.” On Today’s episode, co-hosts Troy Farah and Zachary Siegel interview Lowenstein about what he saw on his journey chronicling the Drug War in countries like the Philippines, Australia, Honduras, and the U.S., among elsewhere.

You can follow Antony Lowenstein on Twitter and buy his book here.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter 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: Aaron Ferguson 
Music: Glass Boy / Monplaisir
Photo: Linnaea Mallette / Edit Troy Farah

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

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter 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: 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 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.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated!

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 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.

Follow Narcotica on FacebookTwitter and support us on Patreon. Your support is appreciated!

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

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.

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

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

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

Photo credit: Composite of Wikimedia images by Troy Farah

Secured By miniOrange