drugs

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 44: Reimagining Public Health and Racial Justice with Dr. Ricky Bluthenthal

There are several health crises occurring around the U.S. and the world right now: overdose deaths, a pandemic, police brutality and violence… While these crises may all feel distinct one from one another, they are actually deeply entwined and can be understood through a lens of racial justice. Overdose deaths disparately impact people of color, as does Covid-19. People of color, especially Black men, find themselves on the blunt end of police brutality and excessive use of force.

To talk about the theme of racial justice across public health, policing, and harm reduction, Zach and Troy were honored to speak with veteran researcher Dr. Ricky Bluthenthal, who has been a harm reduction researcher for decades, writing some of the foundational evaluations of syringe exchange programs. Right now, he’s the associate dean for social justice at University of Southern California’s School of Medicine. We talk about syringe access programs, policing homelessness, “socialism” in public health and so much more.

Follow Ricky Bluthenthal on Twitter @DrPtw
Here is more info on SIF MA: https://sifmanow.org/

Also, here’s the GoFundMe for Aubri Esters: https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-honor-of-aubri-esters

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
Image: Zachary Siegel // edit: 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 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 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.

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

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