overdose deaths

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

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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 45: Overdose Is Tragic, Not Murder with Morgan Godvin

When Morgan Godvin was 24, she sold her best friend Justin a gram of heroin. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. Both of them often used together and hooking each other up was essentially seen as a favor, to keep one another from experiencing withdrawal sickness. 

But this one time proved to be fatal. Justin would later be found dead from an overdose, and Morgan was on the hook for supplying it, getting caught up in the wave of drug-induced homicide cases where prosecutors go after users, who are often friends and loved ones of the victim. Morgan was convicted of “drug delivery resulting in death” by the federal government and spent 5 years incarcerated at the Dublin Federal Prison outside of Oakland for Justin’s death. Since she’s been released, Morgan has used her experience and voice to push back against America’s ultra-punitive response to everyday social problems like addiction, including raising awareness about drug-induced homicide prosecutions.

In this episode, Narcotics co-hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Morgan about everything from syringe access in Tijuana to solitary confinement to being queer and using drugs in prison. But overall, this conversation centers on drug-induced homicides and the way these draconian laws are inflicted on people.

Follow Morgan on Twitter @MorganGodvin

You can read Morgan’s piece “Money Changed Everything For Me In Prison” in The Marshall Project.

Learn more about drug-induced homicide laws at the Health In Justice Lab’s portal.

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: Pixabay // 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 25: Banning Kratom Will Escalate the Opioid Overdose Crisis with Walter Prozialeck

Kratom, a strange plant from Southeast Asia has become one of the most controversial herbs in the United States. In this episode, Troy Farah breaks down the risks and potential benefits of this unique tree and why banning it would likely lead to a devastating increase in deaths in the opioid overdose crisis with Walter Prozialeck, a pharmacology professor at Midwestern University, who has a long-standing interest in herbal medicine, including marijuana and kratom. Topics discussed on this episode, recorded June 26, include why people use kratom, the pharmacokinetics of kratom alkaloids including actual overdose potential, cicadas infected with psilocybin-producing fungi, conspiracy theories about former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, and much more.

Read Prozialeck’s paper here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.05.003

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, Ian Sutherland and Junglemire
Additional audio engineering: Troy Farah
Image Credit: Wikipedia / edit by Troy Farah