troy farah

Episode 62: Policing Pleasure — The Intersection of Sex Work and Drug Use with Tamika Spellman and Caty Simon

Sex work is work, just like coal mining, professional sports and literally any job that involves physical labor. So why is a show about drugs interested in sex work? For starters, there’s a lot of overlap in terms of harm reduction services that help people who use drugs and sex workers. Unfortunately, these services can be criminalized and weaponized against both communities.

One analogy is condoms and syringes: Syringes can be, and sadly often are, considered paraphernalia and evidence of illegal drug use. Believe it or not, police can, and do, consider condoms as evidence of engaging in sex work. Policing actively counteracts harm reduction services. Thus, there’s real reasons for solidarity among sex workers and drug users. And, as this episode will spell out, there are amazing activists who have bridged these communities together.

Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel, Troy Farah and Chris Moraff speak with Tamika Spellman and Caty Simon. Tamika is the Policy and Community Engagement Manager of HIPS, Honoring Individual Power and Strength, a Washington D.C. based organization advocating for the rights and health of people impacted by drug use and sex work since 1993.

Caty is a leadership team member and sex worker liaison for Urban Survivors Union, the American national drug users union, founding-co-organizer/executive director of Whose Corner Is It Anyway, a harm reduction, mutual aid, political education, and organizing group by and for low-income, street, and survival sex workers who use opioids and/or stimulants and/or experience housing insecurity.

Follow Caty on Instagram @marginalutilite and Tamika on Twitter @tamikahs66

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
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Aaron Ferguson
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Juno Mac Flickr edit: Troy Farah

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 60: Perinatal Panic—Drugs, Pregnancy and Stigma with Ria Tsinas, Joelle Puccio and Erika Goyer

One area where drug stigma especially persists, even among harm reduction advocates, is the prejudice against mothers and pregnant people who use drugs. Even some people in syringe exchange or who work in drug policy are against the idea of people with the capacity for pregnancy, (i.e. anyone with a uterus), using pretty much any drugs for any purpose.

It’s not clear why the principles of harm reduction that we extend to almost everyone else suddenly stop when it involves a fetus or a uterus. But the lives of pregnant people are no less important than anyone else who uses drugs, and the same attitudes of stigma, abstinence-only and surveillance don’t work here either—they just make the situation worse.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with not one, but three guests from the Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction, a non-profit that focuses on people with the capacity for pregnancy, who also happen to use drugs. They are:

Ria Tsinas, based in Portland, Oregon, who works at Outside In as a syringe exchange specialist and community health worker. She is also the mother of a wonderful kid.

Erika Goyer, based in Austin, Texas, Advocate at National Perinatal Association and co-founder at Academy of Perinatal Harm Reduction. She is also a parent.

And Joelle Puccio, a travel nurse who is sometimes based in Seattle, Washington and works as a voard of directors at The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance.

Learn more at perinatalharmreduction.org/

Follow Joelle on Instagram @joellepuccio
Follow Ria on Instagram @gtsinas
Follow Erika on LinkedIn

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!

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 48: Moms And Methadone with Elizabeth Brico
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 24: How To Get Abortion Pills Feat. Lynn Paltrow and Francine Coeytaux

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / done with fish
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay edit: Troy Farah

 

Episode 59: Psychedelic Extinction—How Poaching Endangers Some Psychoactive Plants with Dr. Anya Ermakova

Psychedelic drugs are well beyond the quote ‘renaissance’ stage and relatively recently entered a ‘gold rush’ as dozens of companies maneuver themselves to make this nascent industry as profitable as possible for themselves. At least that’s part of their motivation. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword for folks that want to see an end to the drug war, but also don’t want access to these substances available only through doctors and therapists.

While Big Pharma slowly ambles onward to transform psychedelics into the next blockbuster pharmaceutical, the plant medicine decriminalization movement is steadily growing in the United States and more and more people are taking plant-based psychedelics for spiritual, medicinal and yes, even recreational purposes. No judgment here.

The thriving popularity of naturally-occuring entheogens has sparked a lot of concern from some in the psychedelics community, who warn that overuse of these plants for any purpose could drive them to virtual extinction. Imagine if ayahuasca became like Silphium, the ancient contraceptive used by the Greeks and Romans that was consumed to such excess that it is now believed to have vanished from the earth. Could the same happen to psychedelic plants?

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Dr. Anya Ermakova, a researcher based in London with a very extensive background in conservation, ethnobotany, neuroscience, psychiatry and more, almost all of which relates back to psychedelics in some way. She has a master’s in Conservation Science from Imperial College London, a PhD in Psychiatry from the University of Cambridge and a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh. She’s worked as a science officer at the Beckley Foundation, and has provided psychedelic welfare and harm reduction services with PsycareUK and Zendo and so much more.

You can read Dr. Anya Ermakova’s research on ResearchGate.

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!

Some psychedelic plant organizations you can support include The Cactus Conservation Institute and Blessings of the Forest.

That paper on the jaguar trade and ayahuasca is here:
https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.126

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity with Ivan Casselman (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 35: Holding Space — The Values of Trip Sitting with Michelle Janikian
Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee


Producers: 
Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Kesta “Rekindle”
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Flickr edit: Troy Farah
(**Note: At one point Troy says that Indigenous people are afraid of losing the ‘privilege’ of having access to peyote, when it is more accurately described as a ‘right.’ A non-trivial distinction! We considered rerecording this question, but decided to leave it as is.)

Episode 58: How Racism Fuels The Drug War with Kassandra Frederique

Few social justice groups have put in as much work to end the war on (people who use) drugs like the Drug Policy Alliance. Since 2000, DPA has been behind some landmark drug reforms, such as leading a campaign to enact major reforms of New York’s notorious Rockefeller drug laws, assisting in a public education campaign that saw Uruguay legalize cannabis in 2013, not to mention funding and drafting the Oregon drug decriminalization measure that passed last year. According to the organization, DPA has played a pivotal role in roughly half of the campaigns that have legalized medical marijuana in the U.S.

Narcotica co-hosts Zachary Siegel, Chris Moraff and Troy Farah speak with Kassandra Frederique, the executive director of DPA, who has been with the organization since 2009 as an intern. We discuss everything from racist policing, cannabis reform laws, and the future of drug policy reform.

This interview was recorded around the time of the Derek Chauvin trial, so some states, like New Mexico, had not yet legalized adult-use cannabis.

You can follow Kassandra Frederique on Twitter: @Kassandra_Fred and learn more about Drug Policy Alliance’s work at drugpolicy.org

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 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: Aaron Ferguson / Troy Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Aaron Ferguson / Nomad1
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay edit: Troy Farah

Episode 57: Autism, Acid and the Altered Brain with Aaron Orsini and Justine Lee

For many people, psychedelic drugs like LSD or psilocybin are their first major introduction to a profoundly altered state of consciousness. Mental conditions like autism or ADHD are other forms of consciousness, although they don’t wear off after 12 hours and so-called ‘neurotypical’ people often have misconceptions about these mental arrangements. Many folks with autism don’t see their condition as a defect or something to be fixed, an attitude that has sparked the neurodiversity movement. But, autism does come with its own set of challenges, some especially find difficulty in socializing with others.

A very early body of scientific research suggests that psychedelics could help with some of the challenges of autism. MAPS, for example, has explored using MDMA to treat social anxiety caused by autism. But some folks with autism aren’t waiting for the science to catch up and are trying psychedelics to explore how it can help some of the challenging aspects of autism.

Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Aaron Orsini, author of the book Autism On Acid: How LSD Helped Me Understand, Navigate, Alter & Appreciate My Autistic Perceptions and Justine Lee, a graduate student in pharmacology at UC Irvine with a B.S. in neurobiology.

You can follow Aaron Orsini on Twitter: @AutismOnAcid and order the anthology Autistic Psychedelic here.

Troy also wrote about this in Filter Magazine, so you can read more about the up-to-date science on this topic and how scientists are studying psychedelics with autism.

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 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 35: Holding Space — The Values of Trip Sitting with Michelle Janikian
Episode 17: Using DMT To Contact Aliens

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

Episode 56: Drug Use During Disaster with Aaron Ferguson

Our planet is in crisis, plagued by an increase in wildfires, floods, hurricanes, freak storms and outbreaks of disease. As a result, we’re seeing more and more people isolated, left to fend for themselves, as the cracks in public infrastructure only seem to widen.

To use one prominent example, the state of Texas has been slapped with recurrent cataclysms and catastrophes of late, most recently the February winter storm that crushed the power grid, leading to food and water shortages, which left at least 111 people dead.

At Narcotica, we always wonder about what happens to people who use drugs whenever ecological disaster strikes. Co-hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Aaron Ferguson, who works as an outreach provider in Austin, Texas and is also on the leadership team of the National Drug Users Union. (Aaron was also a our co-producer on the show for about 20 episodes and volunteered to help with sound editing this one as well!)

We discuss everything from the evolving drug trade in Texas to the cult-like mentality that can sometimes manifest in the addiction recovery community and much more.

You can follow Aaron Ferguson on Twitter: @sciencenotheism and watch The Methadone Manifesto, a recent webinar hosted by the Urban Survivors Union. Aaron also co-authored a piece in the National Academy of Medicine discussing some of the public health challenges addiction treatment services faced during the recent Texas storm.

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 51: The Joy of Drug Use with Dr. Carl Hart
Episode 18: Drug User Unions – The Rebirth of Harm Reduction with Jess Tilley and Albie Park
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service

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

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 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 53: A Life of Getting Lit with Tommy Chong

It’s kinda weird hearing people say “weed is mainstream” now, when merely possessing the plant stuff can still earn you serious consequences in many parts of the world. But the growing popularity of cannabis is unmistakable. Marijuana is now a global, multi-billion dollar industry—well, to be fair, it always was, only now it’s all legitimate and overtaxed and commercialized instead of enriching drug cartels. 

Regardless, cannabis is more popular than ever, with a rapidly growing fandom among older generations. Even Martha Stewart is into CBD now. But while it’s great to see so many people starting to dig the awesome benefits cannabis sativa offers, it’s important to contextualize the culture and history that got us here. 

On Narcotica, we’ve done more than 50 episodes about all kinds of drugs: opioids, meth, cocaine, psilocybin magic mushrooms, ketamine, even sorta obscure stuff like antibiotics and salvia. But we’ve never done an episode entirely devoted to cannabis! How weird is that? One of the world’s most popular drugs, one I use every day and we just… haven’t gotten to it yet.

So we thought we’d start things off with a bang and bring in one of weed’s biggest fans, none other than comedian, musician and world famous stoner Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame. We discuss everything from prison life to getting high in old age to how ‘Up In Smoke’ became a blockbuster hit to the emerging cannabis industry.

You can follow Tommy on Twitter @tommychong

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 2: Anthony Bourdain, Suicide and the Myth of Cross Addiction
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 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 / Jesse Spillane
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Wikipedia / FreeSVG // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 52: The Fundamental Human Right to Get High with Casey William Hardison

Maybe it seems like an obvious question, but why is certain drug use illegal in the first place? Don’t you, as a human being, have some bodily autonomy and doesn’t that extend to alterations in the mind as well? What about the fundamental right to change your mind?

On this episode of Narcotica, co-hosts Troy Farah, Chris Moraff and Zachary Siegel talk with Casey William Hardison about cognitive liberty, the freedom of thought, and how that relates to prohibiting some drugs but not others. Hardison is a giant in the underground chemistry scene, who has rubbed shoulders with many legends in obscure chemistry: Sasha Shulgin and Darrell Lemaire, for example, and he was featured on Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, in the episode ‘The Lazy Lizard School of Hedonism.’

In the past, Casey operated several infamous drug labs producing things like MDMA, LSD and 2C-B. That’s all behind him, but unrelated to that, Casey has had a bit of legal trouble lately, which we’ll discuss more, but his central argument in court is quite unique. 

This episode is being produced in collaboration with Filter Magazine. Troy wrote an article that goes into some more detail about Casey’s life and the implications for this court case. You can read the article at filtermag.org

You can follow Casey on Twitter @asthouwilt

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)
Episode 15: Accurate, Compassionate Drug Journalism with Filter Magazine
Episode 17: Using DMT To Contact Aliens

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 / Checkie Brown
Intro voice: Jenny Schaye
Image: Pixabay // 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 49: Salvia: Psychedelic Oddity with Ivan Casselman (Plus, Canada’s Emerging Psilocybin Scene)

Most people know salvia as the weird psychedelic drug at head shops that you try once, have a bizarre, uncomfortable experience and never touch it again. But there’s so much more to salvia divinorum, psychedelics and plant medicine in general. Narcotica co-host Troy Farah speaks with Dr. Ivan Casselman, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, who has a Ph.D. in Plant Science, studying their analytical chemistry and genetics and works as the Chief Psychedelics Officer for Havn Life Sciences.

We discuss all things salvia divinorum, including ethnobotany and indigenous use of this plant, its strange effects compared to ‘classic’ psychedelics like LSD, and how to safely use and understand this drug. Plus, we get into Canada’s evolving psychedelic scene and what the future might hold for entheogens in the Great White North.

Follow Dr. Ivan Casselman on Twitter @drivancasselman

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 41: What Does It All Ketamine?
Episode 17: Using DMT To Contact Aliens
Episode 35: Holding Space — The Values of Trip Sitting

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 / Chris Zabriskie
Image: Wikimedia Commons // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 48: Moms And Methadone with Elizabeth Brico

Is there any class of people who receive more stigma, who get more shit and abuse for using drugs, than mothers? Probably not! For whatever reason, society really looks down upon mothers who use drugs. And too often, Child Protective Services use evidence of drug use, even prescribed drugs like methadone or buprenorphine, as a pretense for seizing children from parents, even when there are no signs of abuse or neglect.

At Narcotica, we believe in safe drug use no matter who it is. On this episode, Troy, Zach and Chris talk about how stigma against drug use is contributing to an overloaded foster care system, how so-called ‘fetal assault laws’ are used to control women and pregnant people, and the various ways the war on drugs can be used to dehumanize parents.

Our guest is Elizabeth Brico, a freelance journalist and author from the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in Politico, Columbia Journalism Review, VICE, Undark and many others. She is also the mother of two little girls.

Follow Elizabeth Brico on Twitter @elizabethbrico

You can read some of Elizabeth’s work here: https://filtermag.org/motherhood-legally-terminated/

Sign Elizabeth’s petition to get her kids back: https://www.change.org/p/florida-department-of-children-and-families-reunite-the-brico-girls-ages-5-and-6-with-their-mama

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 24: How To Get Abortion Pills
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue
Episode 6: Speed Up, Slow Down Pt. 2 — Myth Evolution: From Crack Kids to Addicted Babies

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 / A.A. Aalto
Image: Wacky Stuff // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 47: Can Harm Reduction and Cops Coexist?

Something that never gets said enough is that the drug war is racist. This is not an opinion any more than it is an opinion that the American Civil War was fought over slavery. Both were crafted by racists to serve racist agendas of controlling people based on their skin color. It is why it is more urgent than ever that we dismantle this system of oppression, the so-called war on drugs, which would be perhaps better described as simply a war on people.

In many ways, prohibition is far more harmful to people than the drugs that are banned. Harm reduction is a philosophy and a practice that aims to fill in the gaps—if we can’t have a safe, regulated drug supply for heroin or meth like we do with alcohol or tobacco, sometimes even cannabis, then maybe we can make drug use more safe in other ways. Here’s some sterile syringes, here’s some naloxone, here’s a phone number you can call if you want to get counseling, etc… 

Narcotica hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Haley Coles from Sonoran Prevention Works, a grassroots harm reduction non-profit in Phoenix, Arizona that works against some of the structural issues surrounding communities impacted by drug use in Arizona. The infrastructure of harm reduction in the Grand Canyon State is scarce compared to a lot of states—syringe access is still illegal, for example—so there’s a lot of room for growth. We discuss racial justice in the field of harm reduction, where the movement has fallen short, and how things can get better.

Follow Sonoran Prevention Works on Twitter @spw_az

You can read SPW’s BLM statement here: https://mailchi.mp/spwaz/black-lives-matter

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 44: Reimagining Public Health and Racial Justice
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service
Hot Spots 1 – 3 Arizona, Iowa and Nova Scotia

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: PXhere // edit: Troy Farah

Episode 46: Behind The Pharmacists’ Counter with Jessica Moreno

You ever wonder what the hell pharmacists even do? To laypeople, pharmacists are the gatekeepers standing between us and our drugs. But they can be, and arguably, should be, much more than that. Even though just about everyone has experience with pharmacists, some good, some really bad, the profession is still a bit of a mystery. What’s going on behind the counter?
To answer this and more, Narcotica hosts Zachary Siegel, Christopher Moraff and Troy Farah talk with Jessica Moreno, a psychiatric clinical pharmacist based in Detroit, Michigan. We cover topics like why naloxone and birth control should be over-the-counter, how some pharmacists can be prejudiced against people who use drugs, and the role pharmacists play in society as the gatekeepers to prescription drugs.

Follow Jessica on Twitter @Jesslynnmoreno

If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 24: How To Get Abortion Pills
Episode 36: Moral Hazards and Naloxone, A Toxicologist’s Perspective
Episode 30: Getting Wrecked with Dr. Kim Sue

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: Thomas Hawk, Flickr // 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 43: Russian Roulette—Life, Death and Getting High in Putin’s Backyard

The last place you’d want to be dependent on drugs, besides the Philippines, North Korea or the United States, is probably Russia. To give just one example, the Motherland has long banned the use of medication-assisted treatment, such as buprenorphine or methadone, which has made recovery next to impossible for many users. 

Narcotica co-host Christopher Moraff takes a deep dive into Russian drug culture with Aleksey Lakhov, the deputy director of the charitable foundation Humanitarian Action in St. Petersburg. They discuss the culture of naloxone, synthetic drug use, heroin trends, the death penalty, legality of MAT and much more. Here’s the paper about HIV prevention mentioned in the interview and you can read more on this topic in Filter Magazine.

Follow Aleksey Lakhov on Twitter @Alexei_L

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 / Poddington Bear
Image: Flickr / edit: Troy Farah