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Drugs, drugs, drugs. Almost everyone uses them. Almost everyone has an opinion about them. Drug policy pioneer Ethan Nadelmann gets to the bottom of our strange relationship to drugs by talking with those who love them, hate them, and study them. We’d love to hear your stories and ideas. Send us a note at or leave a voicemail at 1-833-PSYCHO-0 (1-833-779-2460).


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Drugs, drugs, drugs. Almost everyone uses them. Almost everyone has an opinion about them. Drug policy pioneer Ethan Nadelmann gets to the bottom of our strange relationship to drugs by talking with those who love them, hate them, and study them. We’d love to hear your stories and ideas. Send us a note at or leave a voicemail at 1-833-PSYCHO-0 (1-833-779-2460).



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Steve Rolles on Legalizing Drugs

The notion of legalizing any sort of illicit drug seemed preposterous to most people just twenty years ago. Now cannabis is being legalized in a growing number of states and countries, psychedelic legalization is proceeding much faster than anyone expected, and in Colombia the president and other leading political figures are talking openly of legalizing cocaine. There are, of course, many ways to legally regulate previously illegal psychoactive drugs. Perhaps no one is more expert on these issues than Steve Rolles at the UK-based Transform Drug Policy Foundation. We talked and debated about various models of legally regulating cannabis, psychedelics and stimulants; the evolving role of the US government and UN agencies; and current developments in Europe, the Americas and Asia. See for privacy information.


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Charley & Shelley Wininger On Healthy Aging & Sex with MDMA

It ain’t easy getting old but the right drugs, used in the right ways, can help. Charley Wininger is a psychotherapist, called “The Love Doctor,” who recently authored of Listening to Ecstasy: The Transformative Power of MDMA. I talked with him and his wife, Shelley, about the ways in which MDMA has proven invaluable in their love relationship, in building deep communities and enhancing sexuality, and in dealing with grief. MDMA, Charley says, “is not an antidote but a salve, a tonic, a rejuvenating vacation that can replenish the fountain of one’s youth.” See for privacy information.


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Paul Gootenberg on the Global History of Drugs

There’s more or less never been a drug free society in human history but scholarly examination of the history of psychoactive drugs was surprisingly sparce until just a few decades ago. Paul Gootenberg is a distinguished professor of history, author of books on the history of cocaine, editor of the recently published Oxford Handbook of Global Drug History, and president of the rapidly growing Alcohol and Drugs History Society. We talked about the evolution of this interdisciplinary field of study from its mostly anthropological origins, its connections to commodity, consumption and cultural studies as well as medicine, sociology and politics, and the pioneering works shaping the field. See for privacy information.


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Dennis McKenna on The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss

The renowned ethnopharmacologist and research pharmacognosist, Dennis McKenna, wrote "The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss: My Life with Terence McKenna," ten years ago. That book is being republished, with a new afterword by Dennis, this month, so it seemed the right moment to talk about their relationship and respective evolutions, the experiences, people, literature and ideas that shaped them, and why Dennis regards the book that he and Terence co-authored in the mid-1970s, Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, as perhaps their most significant accomplishment. See for privacy information.


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Neil Carrier on Khat

I’ve long been fascinated by khat, the psychoactive plant that is legal and consumed widely in Yemen and the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti) but that was criminalized in recent decades in the United States, Europe and other parts of the world as Somali and other émigré communities grew. Its history and uses are somewhat analogous to coca in Latin America. Neil Carrier, a social anthropologist teaching at the University of Bristol, is one of the world’s leading experts on khat – its history, economics, markets, social roles, consumption and conflicts over its benefits, harms and “quasi-legality.” See for privacy information.


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Bonus episode: Psychedelic Confessions - Speaking Personally

I’m often a guest on other podcasts. Among the conversations I most enjoyed, and which many listeners may find particularly interesting, was with Giancarlo Canavesio on his Mangu.TV Podcast. He asked me to be his first guest in a series entitled “Psychedelic Confessions,” during which we reflected on our respective experiences with psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, ayahuasca, mescaline, ketamine, DMT, MDMA, cannabis, and other psychoactive substances. This was, perhaps not surprisingly, one of my most personal interviews. See for privacy information.


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Lisa McGirr on Alcohol Prohibition and the Rise of the American State

The Prohibition era (1920-33) plays a far more significant role in U.S. history than is commonly assumed. Yes, it clearly failed in its objectives. And, yes, the assumptions that led to the rapid enactment of the 18th Amendment were massively flawed. But Prohibition was, as Lisa McGirr, professor of history at Harvard, argues in her book, The War on Alcohol: Prohibition and the Rise of the American State, “one of the boldest and most radical social efforts to alter personal behavior in the nation’s history and one that would have dramatic though unintended consequences for nation-state building and for politics.” It is also, not surprisingly, inseparable from the broader history of drug prohibition and drug wars since the start of the 20th century. See for privacy information.


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Gabor Maté on Trauma and the Myth of Normal

“Our culture’s skewed idea of normality,” says the well known physician and author, Dr. Gabor Maté, “is the single biggest impediment to fostering a healthier world, even keeping us from acting on what we already know.” Some years ago, his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, touched and helped a tremendous number of people looking for insight into their addictive behaviors with his focus on traumas suffered at a young age. Addiction, he stressed, is one result of inadequate and counter-productive efforts to treat one’s pain. In his new book, The Myth of Normal, Gabor makes the case for viewing trauma as the common template underlying most physical and mental maladies. We discussed Gabor’s perspectives and personal evolution, including his growing appreciation for the value of psychedelics in identifying and healing trauma. See for privacy information.


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Chris Kilham - "The Medicine Hunter" - on Kava

Kava is a psychoactive beverage from the South Pacific that has a growing international market. Chris Kilham is “the Medicine Man,” an author, educator and TV personality who has conducted medicinal plant research in over 45 countries. We discussed the scientific evidence behind claims that kava is effective at reducing anxiety , alleviating pain and addiction, helping with sleep and generally improving mood and clarity of thought while presenting few risks to health. Chris also talked about his time in Vanuatu and other South Pacific islands, where he learned about kava’s history, cultivation, culture, and its potential to compete international with coffee, tea, alcohol and other psychoactive beverages. See for privacy information.


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Ellen Scanlon on Women & Cannabis

Ellen Scanlon started a weekly podcast, “How to do the Pot,” in 2019 for women interested in cannabis. She’s used it to give advice about how best to incorporate cannabis into one’s life, whether to relive stress or pain, enhance sex, help with sleep, or just generally lead a healthier, happier and more productive life. We talked about pregnancy, nursing, parenting, menstruation and menopause, as well as autoimmune diseases, migraines and ways in which marijuana can enhance performance. I was curious about differences between men and women, and why she recommends particular strains for women. See for privacy information.


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Bonus Episode: How to Do the Pot

This is a bonus episode of PSYCHOACTIVE. The next episode of PSYCHOACTIVE will be my interview with Ellen Scanlon. She’s the host and creator of the podcast, 'How to Do the Pot,” a weekly podcast for women, by women, that tries to demystify cannabis for people looking to learn safe and trustworthy advice about a topic they might know little about. In advance of my interview with her, we're giving you an episode of her podcast called “Weed Words." See for privacy information.


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Hattie Wells on Ibogaine Treatment

Many people have achieved remarkable success in overcoming a longstanding addiction through ingesting ibogaine. It is a powerful psychedelic drug derived from the iboga shrub, which can be found in the West African country, Gabon, and its neighboring regions. Unlike most other psychedelics, ibogaine can dramatically reduce withdrawal symptoms and craving. Hattie Wells is a psychedelic practitioner, ethnobotanist and drug policy reform advocate who was an ibogaine treatment provider in Britain for several years and is now working on clinical trials involving ibogaine. We discussed similarities and differences between ibogaine and other psychedelics, the details of ibogaine treatment, why aftercare is crucial but typically lacking, ongoing clinical research into the plant, uses of ibogaine for conditions other than addiction, and much else. See for privacy information.


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Martin Lee on CBD: It's a Molecule, Not a Miracle

CBD has exploded in popularity over the past decade. I talked about the power and promise of this cannabinoid with one of the world’s leading experts on the subject: Martin Lee, author of two highly acclaimed books, Acid Dreams and Smoke Signals, and co-founder and director of We covered topics including what is CBD and how does it work, what is its relationship to THC and what’s the evidence for its medical and health benefits, what role is the FDA playing in regulating hemp and what’s going on outside the United States? See for privacy information.


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Chelsea Handler on Drugs

Chelsea Handler is the famous comedian, author, talk show host, documentary maker and activist whose millions of fans relish her revealing and humorous stories about sex, drugs, relationships and politics. Our conversation focused, of course, on drugs: on how getting in trouble with drugs launched her career in comedy, on why she prefers marijuana to alcohol, on what she has learned from her experiences with psychedelics, on which drugs help with creative writing, and on why she considers herself a “pharmacological intuit.” See for privacy information.


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Lynn Paltrow on Pregnancy and Drugs

Millions of women use drugs when they’re pregnant. Some are punished when their pregnancies end with a miscarriage or stillbirth, or even when they give birth to a healthy baby. No one knows more about this than Lynn Paltrow, founder and executive director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW). We discussed the scientific evidence regarding pregnancy and drug use, the media coverage, and the myths that abound – about “crack babies,” “meth babies” and “oxytots.” Not surprisingly, issues of class and race play a pivotal role not just in determining which women are drug tested and sanctioned but also in popular perceptions of who is to blame and what should be done. Lynn and her colleagues have been at the forefront in defending the rights of pregnant women, and hearing about this important work made for a fascinating and at times heartbreaking conversation. See for privacy information.


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Martin Torgoff on Jazz, Race, The Beats & Drugs

An extraordinary number of the greatest jazz musicians were deeply involved in psychoactive drug use – to the extent that the history of jazz and the history of drugs during the middle third of the 20th century are inseparable. The King of Jazz, Louis Armstrong, never went a day without marijuana. The great “Lady Day,” Billie Holiday, became during the 1950s “the most famous drug addict in America.” Most of the great saxophonists – Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Art Pepper, Gerry Mulligan, Dexter Gordon and many more – used heroin as well as other drugs. Martin Torgoff, author of Bop Apocalypse, has probably thought about this subject more deeply than anyone else. Why did so many jazz musicians use heroin and other drugs? How did it impact the music they made and the lives they led? What role did racism and the nascent war on drugs play in all this? And what’s the connection with famous Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and the poet Allen Ginsberg? See for privacy information.


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Kurt Schmoke: Profile in Courage

Kurt Schmoke’s life and mine intersected at a pivotal moment in the spring of 1988, as the war on drugs was approaching its most feverish pitch. I was a 31 year old assistant professor at Princeton University who had just published a prominent article which explained why the drug war was as doomed and counterproductive as alcohol Prohibition. Kurt was a 38 year old former district attorney who had just been elected mayor of Baltimore, when he said much the same to a national conference of mayors and police chiefs. It was an extraordinary act of political courage. Confronted by an avalanche and mockery, he did not back down. His life, and mine, were transformed. We talked about those times, why he did what he did, and what transpired. See for privacy information.


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Boris Jordan on the Politics & Future of the Cannabis Industry

Boris Jordan is a fascinating figure. An American of White Russian ancestry, he played a pivotal role in Russia’s roller coaster economic transformation during the 1990s. Today he is best known as the founder, executive chairman and principal shareholder of Curaleaf, which is in many respects the world’s largest cannabis company. We started off by talking about the politics of marijuana reform in Congress but then focused on the future of the cannabis industry. What role will Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Big Alcohol and the other big consumer good companies eventually play? Which countries, not just in Europe but also in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, are most likely to legalize cannabis in coming years? Why does he think cannabis beverages will account for half of the cannabis market within ten years? What does he think about the future of legal psychedelics? And how and why did he get involved in this industry in the first place? See for privacy information.


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Edward Slingerland on Intoxication & Civilization

“We could not have civilization without intoxication,” says Professor Edward Slingerland in his important new book: Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization. Indeed, “the use of intoxicants should puzzle us as much as religion does.” This episode examines how and why intoxicants – and particularly alcohol -- have played such a crucial role in the evolution of human societies. Humans are, Professor Slingerland points out, “the only animals that deliberately and methodically get high.” Understanding the evolutionary dynamics of intoxicant use is essential to thinking clearly about the role intoxicants can and should play in our lives today. See for privacy information.


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Graham Pechenik on Psychedelic Patents & Law

Jockeying over patents is driving investment and competition among the growing number of people and companies trying to profit from the psychedelics renaissance. Graham Pechenik is one of the smartest and most respected attorneys specializing in this area. We started off by discussing a recent victory against the DEA, which had tried to put a number of promising compounds into Schedule I. Most of our conversation thereafter focused on current battles among investors, activists and researchers, the challenges of trying to reform a patent system that is widely seen as flawed and even broken, and alternative paths for maximizing the benefits and accessibility of psychedelic medicine. See for privacy information.