zachary siegel

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 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 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

Hot Spots 1 – 3 Arizona, Iowa and Nova Scotia

Pretty much everyone on the planet is being impacted by Covid-19 right now. Harm reduction services like syringe access programs or supervised consumption sites are no exception. But for some people, these services are not just their lifeline, they’re the only healthcare they receive, period. And when hospitals and doctor’s offices are already stretched thin, it can lead to a lot of potentially harmful situations. 

At Narcotica, we’re introducing a new miniseries called Hot Spots, where we’re going to call up people in harm reduction across the country and ask them how coronavirus has impacted their services and the people they help. 

We have three shorter interviews, which equal a full episode. First up, we have a segment from Troy Farah, talking to Thoi at Shot in the Dark in Phoenix about getting creative with syringe access during the pandemic. Then Philly’s Christopher Moraff talks to Matthew Bonn in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia about services offered in Canada and the local drug trade there, and I round out the hour with Sarah Ziegenhorn, the executive director at the Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, about what happens when services suddenly ghost their clients.

Follow Sarah Ziegenhorn on Twitter @sarah_ziggy, Matthew Bonn @matthew__bonn and Thoi @bjthoi

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 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 40: Harm Reduction Amidst Pandemic with Daniel Raymond

In these uncertain times, Narcotica aims to not only give our listeners vital public health information, but also offer a sense of reassurance and community. If you’re following the social distancing guidelines, or working from home, life may feel a little extra lonely right now, and we aim to provide interviews and conversations to keep you company.

On Tuesday March 17, co-hosts Troy Farah and Zachary Siegel interviewed Daniel Raymond, policy director at the Harm Reduction Coalition. Drawing from the wisdom and of the harm reduction community, Raymond wrote a beautiful post, “Harm Reduction in the Time of Coronavirus.” This episode covers how harm reduction is an asset during a pandemic, as well as how naloxone and syringe distribution programs are operating, methadone and buprenorphine policies and regulations, and much more.
“As we confront COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2, let us remember the gifts of harm reduction.” – Daniel Raymond, Harm Reduction Coalition. @DanielBRaymond

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!

Note: This episode has been slightly updated to have better mixed audio and credits.
Links
COVID-19 (Coronavirus): How to keep drug use safe during the pandemic https://psychosafety.cf/article/1

Medium Post: https://medium.com/@danielraymond/harm-reduction-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-553e16c76623

Harm Reduction Coalition: Virtual office hours

Covid-19: Guidance for people who use drugs and harm reduction programs  

NIDA: Potential implications for individuals with substance use disorders

https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/03/covid-19-potential-implications-individuals-substance-use-disorders

SAMHSA: Guidance for Opioid Treatment Programs

https://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/statutes-regulations-guidelines/covid-19-guidance-otp

DEA: Diversion Control Division, Telemedicine, Medications  

https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/coronavirus.html

Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy / Pictures of the Floating World

Episode 39: Pain Patients Are Still Fighting For Their Lives with Kate Nicholson

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out guidelines for primary care doctors prescribing opioids to treat chronic pain. Essentially, these guidelines stated that opioids should not be the first line treatment for pain, and that other methods should be tried first. Which is perfectly sensible.

But when it came to dosing and duration, these guidelines — not laws — guidelines, started to become widely misinterpreted. We don’t need to get in the weeds of morphine milligram equivalents here, but what wound up happening across the country is that doctors, medical boards, and even legislators took the guidelines as black letter law. And clearly mistook the intended audience for the guidelines: primary care providers. Not pain management specialists, primary care providers. The one you might go see for a wellness check up or if you have strep throat.

Why is all this important? Aren’t prescription opioids, after all, the very substance that ignited a massive wave of overdose deaths across the country? It’s not so simple. Well intended efforts to reduce everyday people’s exposure to high doses and long durations of opioids started to hit the wrong target: patients with chronic, intractable, debilitating pain.

And we have an excellent guest, civil rights attorney, writer, and advocate, Kate Nicholson. Kate has been a critical asset for the pain community, who has been speaking up about how policy intended to help is actually causing more harm. She has consulted on several Democratic presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro and even Joe Biden.

Follow Kate Nicholson on Twitter @speakingabtpain

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 / A A Aalto
Photo: U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner // 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 37: Covering Culture and Drugs with Substance with Kate Knibbs

It’s difficult to write about drugs without being steeped and schooled in the discourse. Cultural tropes and conventional wisdom dominates the space. Drugs are anthropomorphized as the enemy. People who use drugs are described as manipulative and selfish, unless, of course, they’re “clean.” Often there is little empirical research cited and the same old voices are quoted saying the same old thing. Writers may think they’re being empathetic when really they’re reinforcing stigma, criminalization, and the very narratives that propel dangerous policy in the first place. 

At Narcotica, we look out for people who do things differently and like to hear them out. For this episode, co-host Zachary Siegel sits down with culture writer and journalist Kate Knibbs, whose writing about drugs and harm reduction stands out as uniquely humanizing. Approaching drugs and harm reduction from culture angles, Kate’s work tells us about the way live now. Their conversation focuses on two stories Kate wrote while working at The Ringer. First, the bizarre story of a music blogger at Vice who was caught smuggling a lot of cocaine. Then, they shift gears and discuss a piece about supervised consumption sites. Kate and Zach both get deep, and talk about the aftermath of friends and loved ones who overdose, and the impulse to search for accountability and punish people.
Follow Kate Knibbs on Twitter and look out for her work at WIRED, where she’s now a staff writer. 

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: Nick YoungsonCC BY-SA 3.0Alpha Stock Images Edit Troy Farah