harm reduction

Episode 33: Party and Play—An Intro to Chemsex

Aphrodisiacs are powerfully attractive for a reason. Sex is, after all, crucial to the survival of our species and it feels fucking amazing, so using chemicals that can make sex last longer, feel better or otherwise enhance the act is going to be like candy to a bunch of horny primates.

But the term chemsex—using drugs, or chemical enhancement, to prolong or alter sexual experiences—is actually specific to the gay community, or men who have sex with men. Drugs used have included methamphetamine, Viagra or sildenafil, cocaine, the anesthetic GHB, mephedrone (also known as ‘bath salts,’ although that’s a broad term), ketamine, and amyl nitrates or “poppers.”

Our guest today is David Stuart, who has spent decades as a fixture in London’s gay community. Stuart is an independent social worker and activist who actually coined the term ‘chemsex’ in the 1990’s. Stuart has witnessed the fundamental changes in the gay community as homosexuality has become more acceptable, but fleeting internet-based hook ups became increasingly ubiquitous, and in some cases fraught with potential medical and mental health risks.

You can follow David Stuart on Twitter and learn more about him at https://www.davidstuart.org/

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Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel 
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson 
Music: Glass Boy / Monplaisir
Photo: Linnaea Mallette / 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 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.

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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 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction

via Troy Farah

In this episode, Chris and Zach sit down with Eliza Wheeler of the Harm Reduction Coalition in San Francisco. Wheeler has been working in harm reduction, distributing syringes and naloxone directly to people who use drugs, for over two decades. She’s seen a lot of progress in her lifetime. But as harm reduction goes mainstream, Wheeler sees how easily the bedrock values and principles of the movement can be compromised and coopted by political forces. Zach, Chris, and Eliza talk about how funds for naloxone get in the wrong hands, how syringe exchanges deal with NIMBYism, and how the heart of her harm reduction philosophy is bodily autonomy.

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

Follow the DOPE Project ‏and the Harm Reduction Coalition on Twitter.

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-Producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy and Aaron Ferguson
Image Credit: Chris Moraff / Edit by Troy Farah

Episode 18: Drug User Unions – The Rebirth of Harm Reduction

In this episode, Zach and Troy interview two veteran harm reduction activists: Jess Tilley and Albie Park. Jess and Albie have organized on behalf of drug users for decades, building community to ensure that no one has to die a preventable overdose death. You’ll learn about how they met, how they work, and what policies and ideas they are currently prioritizing. You’ll also hear about what they envision for the future of harm reduction in the midst of, in Jess’s words, an “overdose apocalypse.” Zach and Troy mostly let them do the talking. Enjoy.

Harm Reduction Hedgehogs /@HRH413/Media Toolkit

Produced by Aaron Ferguson, Troy Farah, and Zachary Siegel

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

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