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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).

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).




21 | Maia Szalavitz on the Pioneers of Harm Reduction

Maia Szalavitz is among the most brilliant thinkers and writers about psychoactive drug use, addiction, treatment, altered states of consciousness and neuroscience. Her book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, was widely acclaimed for its analysis of addiction as not a crime but a learning disorder. Her latest book, Undoing Drugs, gave us an opportunity to talk about the pioneers in the United States, England and elsewhere who challenged conventional thinking...


Bonus | Ephemeral - Drugs

As a holiday bonus episode, here's an interview I did with the podcast Ephemeral. To listen to more Ephemeral go to or subscribe to the Ephemeral podcast. Let me know what you think. Our number is 1-833-779-2460. Our email is Or tweet at me, @ethannadelmann. Learn more about your ad-choices at


20 | Kate Nicholson on the Health & Human Rights of People in Pain

Fifty million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Most of us know what happened when pharmaceutical opioids were over-marketed and overprescribed in the United States but few people appreciate how far the pendulum has now swung in the opposite direction, with many doctors now refusing to prescribe opioids even to patients who have clearly benefited from them. Kate Nicholson served as a civil rights attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice for 18 years, during which time she developed...


19 | David Mansfield on the Taliban, Afghanistan & Drugs

Afghanistan has produced most of the world's opium and heroin since the 1990s. With the Taliban's recent return to power, I was eager to talk with the world's leading expert on this subject, David Mansfield. I wanted to know why Afghanistan has occupied this role for so long, and how the Taliban’s involvement in illicit production and trade has changed over the years. Why is it we never hear about the sorts of narco-lords who became infamous in Mexico, Colombia and Burma? Could a different...


18 | Patt Denning on Doing Harm Reduction Therapy

Few people can explain harm reduction therapy better than Patt Denning. She’s a clinical psychologist who has played a pioneering role in developing the field, teaching and training thousands of health professionals. I talked with Patt about her own evolution in embracing harm reduction and how she teaches those who had been committed to 12-step and abstinence-only approaches. I asked her how she deals with people who have lost control of their drug use – and why a therapeutic session...


17 | Carl Hart on Studying Drugs, Using Drugs & Staying Safe

Carl Hart is one of the bravest academics I know. His specialty is neuropsychopharmacology. He's the Ziff Professor of Psychology at Columbia University. He's published hundreds of scientific articles on psychoactive drugs, including many which challenge conventional thinking. And he wrote a book earlier this year in which he discussed his experience using heroin while serving as chairman of the Psychology Department. We talked about that, of course, but I also wanted his perspective on all...


16 | Elias Dakwar on Treating Addiction with Ketamine

Professor Elias Dakwar at Columbia University has conducted research studies – supported by federal funding -- into the use of ketamine combined with mindfulness meditation to help people struggling with addiction and depression. I wanted to understand everything about this: Why is he among the very few researchers to receive funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for this sort of work? How does ketamine compare to psilocybin and other psychedelics? What is the experience of...


15 | Drug Talk Q&A with Dr. Julie Holland

I wanted to try something different with this episode: to team up with a brilliant friend and colleague to answer questions from PSYCHOACTIVE listeners. Dr. Julie Holland is a psychiatrist and psychopharmacologist who has written many outstanding books, including most recently Good Chemistry: The Science of Connection, from Soul to Psychedelics. Julie is a long-time believer in the potential of psychoactive experiences to open our worlds and heal our minds. And, as you'll hear in her...


14 | Leonard Pickard on Making LSD and the Brotherhood of Underground Chemists

The federal government claimed that Leonard Pickard was quite possibly the biggest producer of LSD in history. There’s no telling if that was true, but a judge sentenced him to two life sentences without parole in a high-security prison. Leonard thought he’d die there, but he was released late last year after serving twenty years. We talked about the Brotherhood of Underground Chemists who produced much of the world’s LSD in the late twentieth century – their motivations, beliefs and what...


13 | Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Legalizing Marijuana

If someone had suggested just five years ago that the day would soon come when the majority leader of the U.S. Senate would co-sponsor a comprehensive bill to legalize marijuana federally, most people would have asked what that person was smoking. But that day has come, with New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer joining with New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden in circulating a draft Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act they say will soon be introduced. Senator Schumer...


12 | Patrick Radden Keefe on the Sacklers' Responsibility for the Opioid Crisis

Patrick Radden Keefe is a brilliant journalist and staff writer for The New Yorker. His recent book, Empire of Pain, examines the ways in which the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma contributed to the opioid epidemic in the United States by aggressively marketing OxyContin to physicians and patients. His story is unique in its focus on the owners of that company – the Sacklers. Patrick's revelations about the ways in which Purdue and the Sacklers gained advantage and avoided...


11 | Philadelphia D.A. Larry Krasner on Drugs & Criminal Justice Reform

I first crossed paths with Larry Krasner almost thirty years ago, when he was a young activist attorney representing a needle exchange program in Philadelphia. Today he is district attorney of Philadelphia and one of the highest-profile progressive prosecutors in the United States. We talked about what it’s like to switch sides after decades of criminal defense and to occupy the single most powerful law enforcement position in city government. I asked about his support for local harm...


10 | Clive Bates on the E-Cigarette Revolution

In the early 2000s, Clive Bates was one of Britain's foremost advocates against cigarette smoking and Big Tobacco. Today he is one of the world's foremost proponents of e-cigarettes as a way to help people quit smoking and reduce the harms caused by combustible cigarettes. There's no better teacher about tobacco harm reduction than Clive, which is why I pressed him on the toughest questions: Aren't the risks of e-cigarettes still unknown? Shouldn't we be concerned about people developing a...


9 | Tim Ferriss on the Potential of Psychedelics

Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, investor, podcast host and productivity guru who first gained fame as author of the "4-Hour" self-help book series. During the past few years, he has focused much of his attention on psychedelics and psychedelic-assisted therapy both to deal with his own trauma and to help others. He has invested in the nascent psychedelics industry and contributed millions of dollars to support research as a philanthropist and fundraiser. I’d never met Tim before. We talked...


8 | NIDA Director Nora Volkow on Running a Drug Research Agency in a Political World

Dr. Nora Volkow has headed the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which funds a majority of the world’s research in the area, since the early years of George W. Bush’s administration. I was pleasantly surprised when she agreed to join me for an episode of PSYCHOACTIVE since I’ve been highly critical of the agency’s priorities and its failure to fund important domains of research for what appear to be political reasons. I pressed Dr. Volkow on a host of questions I’d long wanted to...


7 | President Juan Manuel Santos on Ending Drug Prohibition in the Americas

Juan Manuel Santos was president of Colombia from 2010 to 2018, during which time he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to negotiate a peace treaty to resolve the multi-decade conflict with the FARC guerrilla group. He also emerged as the outstanding political leader in Latin America, indeed the world, advocating for far-reaching reform of global drug policy while still in office. We discussed his interactions with Presidents Obama and Trump, as well as other Latin American...


6 | Michael Pollan on Psychoactive Plants, Chemicals and Us

Michael Pollan is an extraordinary journalist and thinker whose writing about food and drugs has educated and influenced tens of millions of readers. No book in recent history has done so much to enlighten people about the benefits of psychedelic-assisted therapy as his 2018 best-selling How to Change Your Mind. His latest book, This is Your Mind on Plants, examines three psychoactive drugs: opium, caffeine, and mescaline. But I first met Michael in 1997, when he wrote a prescient article...


5 | Dan Ciccarone on Why So Many People are Dying of Overdoses

More people died last year from a drug overdose than from gun shootings, motor vehicle accidents, drownings and AIDS combined! Few people bring greater research and insight to this issue than Dan Ciccarone, a physician and professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who has studied illicit drug markets, communities and consumers for two decades. We talked about the role of prescription opioids and street heroin, why the fentanyls are so deadly, and why COVID made the...


4 | Melissa Moore on Legalizing Marijuana the Right Way

When New York legalized marijuana in late March, it did so in a way that instantly became the new gold standard for how best to legally regulate marijuana. No one deserves more credit for this victory than Melissa Moore, director of New York State advocacy efforts at the Drug Policy Alliance, who spearheaded the campaign over the past two years. Melissa explains how the advocacy effort and ultimate legislation were profoundly shaped by prior struggles over gross racial disparities in...


3 | Dan Savage on Sex, Drugs and Freedom

Dan Savage is the famed podcaster and columnist on sex and relationships. We talked all about drugs and sex – what works, what doesn’t, how our brains are wired for risk, and how there’s no clear line between use and abuse when it comes to sex or drugs. We got personal, with Dan describing how MDMA (“Ecstasy”) saved his marriage. And we compared perspectives on the struggles for gay rights and for drug policy reform. Learn more about your ad-choices at