narcocast

Episode 61: Undoing Drugs—Harm Reduction’s Early History with Maia Szalavitz

We’re truly living through a disaster. Drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30 percent in 2020 to a record high 93,000. This is no longer an “opioid” crisis. What I mean is, 2020 overdose deaths linked to stimulants, especially methamphetamine, also broke records. The other key development here is the further entrenchment of illicit fentanyl in the drug supply, it’s a contamination at mass-scale. At this point, we’re in a poisoning crisis driven by one thing: prohibition.

But harm reduction is the movement that continues to push back against draconian drug policy, even when the odds seem against us. Longterm listeners of this show will be familiar with how harm reduction saves lives, but how did this movement get started in the first place?

To learn more, all three Narcotica co-hosts —Zachary Siegel, Troy Farah and Chris Moraff—speak with author Maia Szalavitz, whose new book Undoing Drugs—The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction—is available now. We discuss the struggles of syringe access in the early days to the present, the challenges of being a functioning drug user, and how harm reduction can help address policy changes beyond drugs.

Follow Maia on Twitter @maiasz

Follow Narcotica on 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!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 22: Changing the Narrative with Maia Szalavitz and Leo Beletsky
Episode 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson
Music: Glass Boy / Aaron Ferguson
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Piqsels edit: Troy Farah

Episode 54: West Virginia, America’s Worst Overdose and HIV Hotspot with Lauren Peace

There’s a “twindemic” raging across the state of West Virginia: Covid-19 has collided with an outbreak of HIV and hepatitis C. If that’s not bad enough, West Virginia has the highest overdose death rate in the nation. The CDC recently called the HIV outbreak in Kanawha County, West Virginia the “most concerning” in the country. Make no mistake, this outbreak is preventable, and is largely driven by the failure of local governments to provide syringe service programs to people who use drugs.

Even worse, West Virginia lawmakers are actively trying to pass legislation to further restrict harm reduction programs across the state. Covering this disaster of health and reactionary politics is Lauren Peace, a local investigative reporter at the nonprofit news outlet Mountain State Spotlight. Lauren has been providing vital on the ground coverage of embattled harm reduction programs—programs like Solutions Oriented Addiction Response (SOAR) that are working against a toxic backlash to prevent more HIV cases from spreading and save lives.

This episode is a one-on-one conversation with co-host Zachary Siegel and Lauren, who discusses what it’s like on the ground in West Virginia and the endless battle to put out science-based information in the face of stigma and misguided narratives about harm reduction. Plus, a bit of news at the top of the show about Biden’s pick for ONDCP director (read Zach’s piece in Filter) and Senate Bill 334, a piece of harmful legislation moving through West Virginia’s legislature.

You can follow Lauren on Twitter: @LaurenMPeace and read her work at Mountain State Spotlight.

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!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 37: Covering Culture and Drugs with Substance with Kate Knibbs
Episode 19: Debunking Bupe Diversion Myths with Molly Doernberg
Episode 36: Moral Hazards and Naloxone, A Toxicologist’s Perspective with Ryan Marino

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Lasers
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Bill Dickinson via Flickr // 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 38: Dead People Don’t Recover — The Importance of Safe Supply with Mark Tyndall

Public officials have been yelling from the rooftops that there’s an opioid epidemic. Yes, an obscene number of people are dying from overdoses, many of which involve opioids. But they’re not quite right. Researchers who really get what’s going on describe what’s happening to the U.S. drug supply over the last few years as a mass poisoning. Were it not for potent fentanyl analogues being sold in heroin markets, many, many lives would be spared. 

That’s where the concept of a safe drug supply comes in. Troy and Zach speak with Dr. Mark Tyndall, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia, and the founder of My Safe Project, a vending machine that dispenses hydromorphone pills, otherwise known as dilaudid. Mark says this program is saving lives. We cut through some of the bullshit arguments about diversion, “enabling” drug use and other pearl-clutching fears, but also talk about safe supply for stimulants and benzos, and how this program is already changing lives.

Follow Dr. Mark Tyndall on Twitter @DrMtyndall

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
Photo: PXFuel // Edit 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.

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!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 26: Housing As Harm Reduction
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service
Episode 20: The Pitfalls of Mainstream Harm Reduction with Eliza Wheeler

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Music: Glass Boy
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Composite by Troy Farah