heroin

Episode 55: Street Sampling Synthetics, from Carfentanil to Xylazine with Alex Krotulski

Amid a wave of synthetic drugs in recent years, Kensington, Pennsylvania has emerged as the locus for a different kind of experimentation, through a new generation of freelance entrepreneurs. Their bathtub chemistry is often guided by trial and error—leaving doctors, public health officials and harm reductionists struggling to understand the latest side effects.

Last year, a concerned toxicologist from the nonprofit Center for Forensic Science Research & Education (CFSRE) at the Fredric Rieders Family Foundation, the academic and research arm of NMS Labs outside Philadelphia, conceived of a new testing program. It employs sophisticated mass spectrometry to reveal the composition of retail-level street drugs.

Alex Krotulski, an associate director of the CFSRE, spoke to Narcotica co-host Chris Moraff about everything from synthetic cannabinoids like 5F-APB to carfentanil to xylazine.

You can follow Alex Krotulski on Twitter: @alexkrotulski and read Chris’s report on this subject in Filter Magazine.

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: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Suhov
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: edit: Troy Farah

Episode 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart

Dr. Carl Hart has long been known as America’s preeminent drug scientist. If you listen to our show regularly, you’ve probably heard of him. He appeared briefly way back on Episode 6, talking about crack-cocaine. For the uninitiated, Dr. Hart is a neuroscientist at Columbia University, and he’s published well over 100 peer-reviewed, scientific papers, which produces vital knowledge and understanding of how drugs work not only in the brain, but how they work in people’s lives and society at-large.

But lately, Dr. Hart has taken his work outside the lab with his new book, “Drug Use for Grown Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear.” On this episode, Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel, Chris Moraff and Troy Farah discuss with Dr. Hart everything from using cannabis while pregnant to housing as harm reduction to taking MDMA as a way to romantically connect with your partner.

We debunk a lot of myths, but especially the idea that drug use is only a form of self-medication. Sometimes—a lot of the time—people just use drugs to feel good. Acknowledging the joy of drug use is essential to dismantling the war on people who use them.

You can follow Dr. Hart on Twitter @drcarlhart and learn more at drcarlhart.com

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 47: Can Harm Reduction and Cops Coexist?
Episode 44: Reimagining Public Health and Racial Justice

Episode 27: What’s the Most Dangerous Drug?

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: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Revolution Void
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Hartwig HKD Flickr // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 50: Sicarios and Supply Side Economics with Stewart Scott

On this episode, we discuss how Mexico became a flashpoint of the war on drugs, broader trends in American foreign policy and drug policy, as well as the evolution of synthetic drugs as the main category of illicit narcotics. Our guest is Stewart Scott, a security analyst who for years penned one of the best annual assessments of Mexico’s evolving cartels for Stratfor and has since transitioned to Torchstone Global, a private security consulting firm. 

Scott has worked in the trenches of intelligence and security for 35 years and began his career in army reserve and National Guard intelligence before spending 10 years as a special agent with the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. 

During the height of the drug war’s surge under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Scott was assigned to protect a Colombian judge who had signed an arrest warrant for Pablo Escobar. In 1993 he traveled to Bogota to help the Colombian government investigate a car bombing at a school supply market.

You can follow Scott on Twitter @stick631 and learn more at torchstoneglobal.com

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 11: Beyond Borders — How the U.S. Exports Dangerous Drug Policy
Episode 31: Supervised Consumption: Narcotica Breaks Down Safehouse Ruling with Av Gutman
Episode 34: “Inside the Bloody War on Drugs”

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: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Chandiliers
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service

The covid-19 crisis has exposed many weak spots in our culture and the need for radical change. It has revealed which workers are really essential—hint: it’s not executives keeping this late-stage capitalist economy afloat—and that we need to pay these workers a living wage. It has revealed that yes, healthcare is a human right and that contributing to public health is, shockingly, essential to keep everyone healthy. 

And perhaps most relevant to this show, the covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the utmost importance of supervised consumption sites, or places where people can use drugs under medical supervision. We have numerous episodes in the past on this issue, so check out our archives if you aren’t already familiar: Episode 31, Episode 26 and way back on Episode number 4. 

We have two guests today: Sterling Johnson, a housing lawyer, who is well known among Philly harm reductionists and has been fighting for a supervised consumption site for years, and Matthew Sheppeck, an organizer with the Philadelphia Tenants Union, a harm reductionist, and addiction outreach specialist that works with homeless drug users in the Kensington region of Philadelphia. 

We discuss everything from housing as a human right, whether cops should carry naloxone, representation in harm reduction institutions and the importance of supervised consumption spaces, but why they need to reflect the needs of people who use drugs. We also discuss the coronavirus pandemic that is overshadowing everything and how that is changing so much about harm reduction.

Follow Sterling Johnson on Twitter @LB_Sterling and Matthew Sheppeck on Instagram @Sheppecksees.

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 / Pictures of the Floating World
Image: Wikimedia / edit: Troy Farah
One correction: At the 21:30 mark, Zach incorrectly quoted Gov. Andrew Cuoma. There were 263 positive infections at Rikers, not deaths. We regret the error.

Episode 23: Bring Back Prescription Heroin! with Travis Lupick

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 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 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.

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