09/21/22 Zachary Siegel

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Zachary Siegel

Zachary Siegel is a writer based in Chicago. A recent piece in Harpers was titled: A Hole In The Head, a procedure to implant electrodes into the brain to stop addiction. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate, and WIRED, among others.

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02/26/20 Antony Lowenstein

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Antony Lowenstein

Antony Lowenstein author of new book: PILLS, POWDER & SMOKE - Inside The Bloody War On Drugs + Incarcerex & Drug War Freight Train

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FEBRUARY 26, 2020

DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker, your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection and the liars who support the drug war which empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels, and gives reason to existence to tens of thousands of violent U.S. gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

Hi folks, welcome to Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker, the Reverend Most High. Thank you for being with us. I am hoping that this show helps to educate and motivate you to help do your part to end this stupid eternal war on drugs.

Well folks, day after day and week after week you hear me reporting the drug war news and you hear me proclaiming that it is full of bull and that there is no reason to exist. There is a new book on the market that parallels that thought and takes that same course exposing this drug war for what it is. We are going to be speaking with the author here in just a moment about his new book entitled, Pills, Powder, and Smoke: inside the bloody war on drugs by Antony Lowenstein. He is speaking with us today from Jerusalem, welcome Antony Lowenstein. Hello Antony.

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: Thank you so much for having me. How are you guys?

DEAN BECKER: Real good, it is starting to be springtime here in Houston so we have no problems with the weather. I want to thank you for this book. You have exposed it and shown that it is a toothless monster that is still devouring generations of our children. Right?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: Absolutely. I starting researching and writing this about five ago and it was really to counter two myths. One was that in many parts of the world including the U.S., people say that American states are legalizing marijuana and therefore inevitably the drug war will come to an end and it will be legalized federally and therefore that is the end of the problem; or people say that it is a terrible violence and drug war in Mexico, which there is. The drug war is something that happened in the past during the Reagan era and the truth is that because western demand for illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, etc. is still massive; in fact it has never been higher. There is a need for a system to produce those drugs, supply them, and distribute them to wherever they want. The U.S. is the biggest market in the world but there are many others including UK, Europe, and elsewhere. What I wanted to do in the book was go to some of these countries where the drugs are either produced or they are transit countries or they are countries like the U.S. which are going through a transition of sorts towards on the one hand a more enlightened drug policy with cannabis and on the other hand a lot of the other harder drugs such as cocaine and others are still causing mass carnage because they are still illegal and authorities at the federal and state level in the U.S. are happy to maintain that arrangement because it suites them very well and they make a lot of money from it due to government subsidies so the drug war is still very much alive, tragically.

DEAN BECKER: Well it is and thank you for that, Antony. I want to give a brief description of the book to the listener out there. You travelled the globe, you have been to Honduras, Guinea-Bissau, the Philippines, Great Britain, Australia, and other locations I am sure to dig deep and delve in to this to find out the heart of the matter and how it is all being implemented in these various countries. I am going to read a couple of quotes from your book as we go along. In the Introduction you talk about El Chapo being found guilty of ten charges against him and the United States Attorney for the District of New York claimed that the decision was a victory for the 100,000 dead in Mexico and for the drug war itself. He is quoted as saying, “There are those who say the war on drugs is not worth fighting. Those people are wrong”, and I say this gentleman is flat out blowing smoke. What is your response, Antony?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: I agree. I put that in there because I wanted people to see that rhetoric which was heard for decades is still very much alive. There are a lot old people in government and there are definitely growing voices in elements of the government and law enforcement in fact who speak openly about how the drug war is a failure, but there are still people such as the guy you just mentioned. I didn’t know him personally but his quote after the El Chapo trial was instructed because if anyone believes by putting El Chapo in prison – and to be clear – El Chapo seems to be a brutal, terrible, murderous thug and there is no doubt about that but putting him in prison has done literally nothing to the drug supply, nothing to the drug demand; in fact the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico is doing very well, thank you very much. They are transitioning to other drugs and they are now involved in producing fentanyl because the U.S. has a massive demand for it. Until you legalize and regulate all drugs, which at the moment feels like a long way away, these cartels are the ones making the money; it is not the average person who is growing coca in Colombia or some poor drug mule in the U.S., they are not the ones making money generally. The cartels and the criminal groups are the ones that people like me who advocate for legalization want to shut down. These are not good people and I am not saying that they are but until you legalize and regulate all drugs, those kinds of groups are the ones that are benefitting. Locking up people like El Chapo and others in the U.S. or elsewhere has had little to zero effect on changing anything to do with the drug war, which makes you realize that the drug war is not actually about stopping drug use, drug abuse, or drug supply. The drug war has always been about a war on the poor – always – whether they are black, white, Latino, it doesn’t really matter. On that level it has been incredibly successful. If you look at it in a very cynical way those groups have been disproportionately affected, incarcerated, and prosecuted. Yes, there are certain rich people that get prosecuted, too, but in general they are not in the U.S. and elsewhere. The drug war has always been a war on the poor and the disadvantaged and that has pretty much come from Nixon onwards. I quote people in the book who were close to Nixon and a former advisor to Nixon said – and people can read the quote in the book – in summary that they knew that the drug war could not be fought honestly so they had to create a fiction to go after in the 60s and 70s what they saw as the enemy were African Americans and the anti-war left because the war then was Viet Nam. Fast forward 50 or so years and not much has really changed. The rhetoric has evolved a little bit but then you hear the man you mentioned before who said that the drug war was worth fighting and he realized that it would take a lot of public pressure and campaigning to force government to stop the drug war because otherwise it is becoming quite self-perpetuating.

DEAN BECKER: Sure. Antony, I wanted to underscore what you were saying about who makes the big bucks. I know that you can buy cocaine in bulk for $1000 – $2000 a kilo down in Colombia or Bolivia and it goes anywhere from $20,000 –$100,000 a kilo up here in the U.S. That trade is never going away as long as prohibition exists. Right?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: Absolutely. In fact it is growing because as I said before the demand for drugs in various parts of the U.S. in the U.K. there has never been a greater demand for cocaine as it is said to be easier and quicker to get cocaine delivered than it is to order a pizza. It is said that in London every night 20 – 30 kilos of cocaine is consumed. I say this not as someone who thinks that people shouldn’t have the right to consume cocaine if it is done safely and in a regulated way; but in the current environment there is no doubt that the supply chain for cocaine and other drugs is really ugly and people really need to think about that because if you are interested in using coke, you need to be aware of the fact that from the farmer in Colombia or Peru where most of the cocaine in the world comes from – to get it to your door in New York, London, Houston, or wherever you are it has to go through a lot of people’s hands and what that means in practice is a lot of misery, violence, and death. There is no way to get around that ugly reality and as you say, until you legalize and regulate then I am someone who is calling for ethically sourced drugs. What that means is that the drug is ethically sourced from a farmer in Colombia all the way potentially to a user inside the U.S. or elsewhere. Everyone is given a fair wage or salary where they may be unionized and they are not treated badly and there is no violence. That requires a massive change in how we currently do things. It might seem impossible for people to imagine that but one only looks back ten years ago in the U.S. and many other countries that are now moving toward legalizing cannabis – back then it felt very hard to imagine that cannabis would be legalized. In the U.S., as listeners of course are very well aware, many states have legalized and it is inevitable that it will happen federally whether it is done by Trump or a future President, it will happen and that is a major step forward but then the challenge is the other drugs as well.

DEAN BECKER: Yes. I don’t know how it is in Great Britain or Israel, but over here we now have fentanyl winding up in the cocaine due to bad processes or something and perhaps they use the same table when they batch up their cocaine but it is becoming more deadly in that regard as well. In your book you talk about Guinea-Bissau, where much of the drugs making their way to Europe are landing and repackaged and sent on to Europe from there. Right?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: Absolutely. People often don’t know about this. Guinea-Bissau is a tiny formal Portuguese colony in West Africa and in the last 10 – 15 years it has become a key transit country for cocaine from South America to Europe so it arrives by ship or air and gets delivered to Guinea-Bissau or other West African countries and then gets packaged up and continued up in to Europe and to the U.K The effect of that in a country like Guinea-Bissau or other Western African states is the vulnerable nations that are prone to being essentially bought by South American drug cartels so they are essentially Narco states, Guinea-Bissau was called that by the U.N. about ten years ago. In the U.S., the equivalent country would be Honduras where a lot of the cocaine going in to the U.S. from South America goes by Honduras and the effect of that is very real for Americans, especially – as many people will be aware – although there were problems long before Donald Trump became President since he assumed the Presidency a little over three years ago a lot of the refugees trying to get in to the U.S. are coming from Honduras and they are fleeing for a reason as the country has collapsed and is potentially a Narco state. It is not only because of drugs but drugs play a huge factor in that and it is really for people to realize that until drugs are regulated and legalized, you don’t know what drug you are taking and it seems crazy that in 2020, many officials including governments and schools still talk about ‘Just Say No’, or variations of that and it doesn’t work. It is actually immoral to argue that because it ignores the fact that many people do take drugs and will take drugs. I don’t think people should be encouraged to take drugs in fact one of the things that people like me advocate in legalization is that drugs should be boring. In other words, there is something illicit about the idea now of doing cocaine or heroin, whatever the drug of your choice may be whereas in a legalized, regulated system the drug would be available in various forms. Obviously cannabis is a relatively harmless drug but it can cause harm with excessive use to be sure but something like heroin is not simply available across the counter it is available through a pharmacy or a doctor and cocaine could be handled in the same way. A legalized system would choose a mature way as to how you can access these drugs. In Portugal we have seen over the last 20 years that they have decriminalized all drugs and drug use and abuse has gone down – so it actually does work.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Friends, we are speaking with Mr. Antony Lowenstein about a book he authored entitled, Pills, Powder, and Smoke: inside the bloody war on drugs.

Antony, I was in Colombia a few years back and I probably paid the “gringo” price of $5 for a pound of coca leaf and I toured some coca fields, etc. I found it to be somewhat stimulating and a bit better than a cup of coffee. They say that it opens up your lungs so that you can breathe at those high altitudes and I will submit that we would be much better off if we were to actually legalize coca and perhaps cut down on the number of people using cocaine; and if we were to legalize the pure opium extract from the poppy rather than people being tempted by heroin itself. What is your thought in that regard?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: I agree. One of the things that is happening across Colombia – and maybe you saw that when you were there – is that while it is illegal there are growing moves at the local level and the indigenous levels to use coca for chewing for either medicinal purposes or a mild stimulant. This year a Colombian politician will put forward legislation in the Colombian Parliament to legalize and regulate cocaine and that legislation will almost certainly fail but they are doing it because it is causing so much damage in the current system. People may not realize this but Colombia provides roughly 70 – 80 percent of the world’s cocaine; it is a huge, huge market. In fact, the peace deal that was struck five or so years ago between the FARC and the government is collapsing now and drugs is a major factor there because the government simply has not assisted many of the people who were in these militant groups to find alternative sources of employment. What that means now on the ground is that due to the massive demand for cocaine unless it is legalized and regulated – and that is why this politician in Colombia, who I really admire, is doing this. Again, it will almost certainly fail but it is an attempt to put this on the agenda. It is almost inevitable that the U.S. is not going to be the first country in the world to legalize cocaine or coca; we all know that won’t happen. What could happen is a country like Colombia, Peru, or Bolivia or one of those kinds of nations that actually has the most amount of damage from the drug and almost as an example to say to the world that they are not going to tolerate this prohibition mindset anymore as they are the ones who are suffering, dying, and experiencing all of the apocalyptic violence because the drug is illegal. They are leading from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Latin and South America, prominent politicians, media, etc. who have said for years that everyone knows the drug war is not winnable. Therefore, you have to ask yourself why it is continuing, whose agenda is it serving, and who is making money from it, that is one of the things I try to look at in the book.

DEAN BECKER: You have done an excellent job. You’ve exposed the underbelly of this, so to speak. I want to jump forward a chapter in your book to the Philippines. The story coming out of the Philippines is that the cops and some vigilantes hired by the cops are out there on motorcycles often shooting people who they suspect of using drugs and they are creating mayhem across the nation by killing thousands of people. You may have heard that within the past week that the Philippines have said they are canceling their relationship with the United States now and they are walking away from our prior agreements. President Duterte seems like a true renegade. You want to talk about the situation in the Philippines?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: Duterte, who was elected about three and a half years ago has caused carnage in that country. Since then no one knows the exact number of people who have died but a conservative estimate is at least 30,000. The vast majority are poor and live in slums mostly around Manila, which is a major city there. I spent some time there a few years ago looking at these communities and understanding what the drug war has done there. As you say, mostly violence committed by police or thugs hired by police and sometimes it is people who use drugs, sometimes it’s simply poor people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think the Philippines is almost the best so-called worst example of what a drug war can look like because it really is a classic example of a war on the poor. These are people who are often using a drug called “Shaboo”, which is like an amphetamine that people are using to get through the day and this includes people who work in manual labor or people who very tough lives; it is a very cheap drug and easy to buy. There is almost a sense that the current government there and the rhetoric around it and the people who support it. A lot of the people in the Philippines support this and it is very popular. There is opposition but not as much as you might think. It is almost like the Philippines is showing a different very strange model of how you deal with drug users. Let’s be clear, the people who are at the top of the chain are drug dealers and people who are using cocaine are not being attacked and killed. This is a war on the poor and you are right, President Duterte has an acrimonious relationship with the U.S. On the one hand his rhetoric is correct in that the U.S. has not been treating the Philippines like a Colony, in fact the Philippines used to be an American Colony. His reasoning therefore in wanting to sabotage America is not particularly pure. Essentially he is going to China who are oddly a benign pair in my view. Duterte and the Philippines have a long history of a complex relationship with Washington, whether it is Obama or Trump. What the drug war has shown there I think is that there is an ability to unleash mass deaths and still receive a lot of public support and the problem with that apart from the obvious is that a lot of people around the world who still support a hard line on drugs, particularly in Asia Pacific, look to Duterte in admiration because he is getting away with it. As opposed to what critics will say is that America is liberalized and they are legalizing cannabis – this is the wrong way – and that the Philippines is how you should fight a drug war. I worry that many countries will see that and want to follow suit.

DEAN BECKER: Well let’s hope they don’t. I want to compliment you for touring these countries, going to the Philippines and Guinea-Bissau, etc. It is not an easy chore or a safe task. I was at a conference a couple of months back and got to meet a guy who won an award from the Drug Policy Alliance. He is one of the Night Crawlers there in the Philippines that goes to where the dead bodies are from Duterte’s drug war and reports on them.

I know that here in the United States, Donald Trump got elected saying he was going to legalize weed, and then he wasn’t, and then he was, and then he wasn’t. There is a new Democratic candidate for President in Mayor Bloomberg who ran the Stop and Frisk situation in New York City that arrested 500,000 or more citizens who were mostly black and brown. This kind of parallels the situation in the Philippines – the poor people are the ones who can least stand the hassle and they are the ones who get it the most. Right?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: For sure. The U.S. debate is interesting – the negative side is basically what you said, that Trump during his election campaign in 2016 talked about actually having a real problem with states that have legalized marijuana and he definitely hasn’t talked about legalizing all drugs. I have to say that what does give me a bit of optimism – and I guess we will see how that plays out this November – is that a lot of the main Democratic Presidential candidates have talked about if not ending the drug war, certainly curtailing it. Bernie Sanders seems to be the current front runner talks about legalizing cannabis, reparation to those who have suffered the most from the drug war but he doesn’t advocate legalizing all drugs and I think he should but it is a step in the right direction. Some of the other key candidates have also made similar comments as Sanders so there is a real possibility if Sanders or someone like him was the candidate and could be President that a drug policy would certainly change it. It would not end overnight to be sure but it would change. There is also one other thing I want to finally say and that is that there – and this has been going on underground for a long time but it is becoming quite mainstream and that is the use and research of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, Magic Mushrooms and ecstasy to treat mental health issues. The fear when Trump came in was that he would try to stop that research or arrest people who use it but he hasn’t done that – to his credit. What has been happening with those therapists, researchers, and scientists are showing that there are a lot of people who have massive mental health problems which accounts for a huge number of people in the U.S. and globally who use antidepressants and those work for some people and not others. There is hard evidence now that shows under controlled studies and environments that psychedelic drugs help people to feel better and they help with PTSD and trauma. Within a few years in the U.S. it is very possible that legally you would go to a doctor and rather than being prescribed antidepressants you would be given a session on ecstasy or LSD. This has been happening now for a number of years and it is likely to happen this decade in the U.S. and that to me is a really positive sign. While that is not about the drug war per say, but it has been decades that those drugs have been demonized and said to be awful. They are still illegal and still obviously used by people who go to parties and clubs. What I am talking about is the use of it for medical reasons and I think for a lot of people who have been skeptical about ending the drug war or making drugs legal and regulated that they will see frequently friends, colleagues, and maybe even themselves using these drugs to help to deal with depression or loneliness. Now drugs are not going to solve anyone’s problems, so don’t think that for a second; what I mean is that they can at least assist in people dealing with some of their personal issues potentially. That to me is a positive side actually of how drug reform in the U.S. has moved – often quite under the radar – in the last five or six years. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Obama, entering Trump.

DEAN BECKER: I agree with you, Antony. I know a couple of people who have managed to quit alcohol and cigarettes through the use of mushrooms because well, it works.


DEAN BECKER: Friends, we have to wrap it up here. Once again, we have been speaking with Mr. Antony Lowenstein, he is the author a Pills, Powder, and Smoke: inside the bloody war on drugs. Do you have a website and any closing thoughts for our listeners, Antony?

ANTONY LOWENSTEIN: Thanks for having me. People can follow my work on my website, which is: I am also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

It’s time to play Name That Drug By its Side Effects. Swelling of the tongue, decreased bone marrow, fever, chills, infection, and nervousness from degeneration, confusion, loss of consciousness, fatigue, memory loss, muscle weakness, numbness, tingling, seizures, speech disturbance, cancer, and death. Time’s up! The answer: Levamisole. A dog dewormer that has become America’s number one cutting agent for cocaine.

MALE VOICE: Do you suffer from fear of losing your election? Are you terrified that voters will discover you’ve done nothing to improve their lives? Maybe it’s time you talk to your Spin Doctor about Incarcerex. In clinical trials Incarcerex has been shown effective at reducing election related anxieties by making voters think you’re doing something about the drug problem. It is simplistic, and fast acting. If your problems continue or get worse, you can always double or triple your dose of Incarcerex. Whether its addiction, therapeutic use, or just casual use there is an Incarcerex plan for every American. Best of all taxpayers, not you, will foot the bill so talk to your doctor about Incarcerex today. Common side effects include: loss of civil liberties, police corruption, racial injustice, and increased terrorism, threat of HIV and AIDs, and violent crime. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) prisons are also a common side effect. Stop taking Incarcerex if (UNINTELLIGIBLE) last longer than 20 years. If you are trying to balance the budget, keep families together, or protect human rights Incarcerex may not be right for you. Do not mix Incarcerex with the Constitution or common sense. So start taking Incarcerex and keep pretending you are doing something about the drug problem.

DEAN BECKER: Try to picture the drug war as a freight train more than 13 miles long with cars that are ten feet wide, 63 feet long, and 15 feet high filled with hundred dollar bills, 6,600,000 cubic feet of hundred dollar bills more than 150,000 tons of sweet Benjamins. More than a trillion dollars frittered away on the drug war but I guess hell, everybody loves trains.

Please visit our website at:, and again I remind you that because of prohibition, you don’t know what is in that bag. Please be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listener’s around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth. Cultural Baggage is a production of the Pacifica Radio Network. Archives are permanently stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy and we are all still tap dancing on the edge of an abyss.

05/15/19 Michael Pollan

Century of Lies
Michael Pollan

This week on Century of Lies, host Doug McVay is joined by best-selling author Michael Pollan to discuss psychedelic medicine, decriminalization, and his book How To Change Your Mind. Plus the House Committee on Oversight and Reform looks at federal drug control policy.

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MAY 15, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello, and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of

This week my guest is the best-selling author Michael Pollan. We talk about psychedelic medicine, decriminalization, and his latest book How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

But first: On May 9, the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on federal drug control policy.

Witnesses included Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy James Carroll; Brevard County, Florida Sheriff Wayne Ivey; Acting Director of Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office Triana McNeil; Acting Director of Health Care at the GAO Mary Denigan-Macauley, and Delaware Division of Public Health Director Karyl Thomas Rattay, MD.

We’re going to hear questions from Representative Katie Hill, Democrat from California, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat from New York. The first voice you hear will be that of Representative Ocasio-Cortez.

US REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: While I'm pleased to hear that the Administration is supporting efforts to combat the opioid crisis, and then that the president's budget requests some discretionary funds for this purpose.

It seems that upon closer inspection, he's actually gutting the very programs that are critical to combating the opioid epidemic. The Medicaid program is the nation's single largest payer for behavioral health services, and it covers nearly four in ten non-elderly adults struggling with opioid addiction.

And adults with Medicaid are more likely than even the privately insured and the uninsured to receive substance use disorder treatment.

So at the same time we should be dedicating greater resources to this critical program, the president's budget is proposing $1.5 trillion dollars in cuts to the Medicaid program over the next ten years, the very program that is the largest payer and largest assistant in the behavioral health services.

So, I have a question, Doctor Rattay. In your written testimony, you speak about the importance of Delaware's Medicaid expansion. What would it mean for your state if, and how would this impact your ability to respond to an opioid epidemic, if the ACA were repealed?

KARYL THOMAS RATTAY, MD: We would have great concerns that if the ACA were repealed, and we went backwards in regard to Medicaid expansion, that many people would lose access to life saving treatment services.

So, on the flip side, Medicaid expansion not only has been able to enable us to increase access to services for individuals, but it's also enabled us to use resources, other resources, differently, so, for example, whether it's wraparound services or peer recovery coaches.

REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Have you seen any sort of relationship, whether it's correlative or otherwise, between states that have not expanded Medicaid and the depth of the opioid crisis and the ability of people to seek treatment?

KARYL THOMAS RATTAY, MD: I know that there has been a look at that, but I have not studied that closely.


In addition to the opioid crisis, and I think one of the issues that we've had here is that we don't see these crises hit until they're crises, especially in the legislative side as well, but, we have to be able to identify emerging threats, and what I've been seeing here is, one of the lessons that we learned from the opioid crisis, and the rapid rise of fentanyl and synthetic opioids is that we need to be prepared to react quickly when new crises and new drugs emerge as threats.

Doctor Carroll [sic: technically accurate in that Carroll received a Juris Doctor degree from George Mason University's law school], can you update us on the process of identifying emerging threats, when it comes to drugs and public health, and when can we expect the emerging threats committee to be up and running.

JAMES CARROLL, JD: Thank you. If I ma'am, may just spend thirty seconds responding to Congresswoman Maloney, Congresswoman Maloney referenced about reimbursement rates and tying it to pain, it's an interesting idea, maybe we should take a reverse approach, for people --

REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I'd like to reclaim my time, Doctor Carroll, I'm so sorry, she -- her time is expired.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: I'll give you -- I'll give you an extra thirty seconds.


JAMES CARROLL, JD: The -- maybe that's a great idea, to say, people, if you -- when you cut down your prescriptions for opioid -- while protecting chronic pain people, your reimbursement rates will go higher, the fewer opioid prescriptions you write.

One of the things that we're also doing is working with medical --

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: I want to be sensitive to time. Can you please answer -


REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: - the Gentlewoman from New York?

JAMES CARROLL, JD: Thank you. I apologize, Congresswoman.

And I appreciate the Committee's, when you reauthorized us to make that a centerpiece, and so, we have sent invitations out to fourteen members across the country from every disciple - every discipline, and we'll be hosting our first meeting with our new emerging threats coordinator on time.

REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: All right, great, thank you very much.

JAMES CARROLL, JD: I apologize for thirty seconds.

REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: No worries, no worries. You know, in fact, at our hearing in March, the Houston HIDTA Director McDaniels testified that, quote, "our major threats in Houston are methamphetamine, cocaine, and synthetic drugs."

You know, our country unfortunately has a history of racial inequity when it comes to how we pursue either enforcement or treatment, depending on the type of drug, and I was wondering if you agree that one of our goals should be to increase treatment for all drug addiction, including addiction to methamphetamines, cocaine, and other drugs in addition to opioids.

JAMES CARROLL, JD: Absolutely. I think we need to -- we have -- people say opioid crisis because that's what's killing so many people, but at its core, you're right, this is an addiction crisis, and we have to treat people as we find them.

REPRESENTATIVE ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Okeh. Thank you very much, and I'll yield the rest of my time to the chair.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: Thank you. With that, I'll recognize myself for five minutes. This question is to, well, first of all I want to say thank you so much to everyone for testifying, especially to those who joined us earlier today.

But, Director Carroll, I'm particularly glad to hear that you're testifying about the importance of evidence based treatment, and we actually see extensively in the GAO testimony that highlights that one of the key -- that medication assisted treatment is - demonstrated that it reduces opioid use and increases treatment retention compared to abstinence based treatment.

One of the challenges identified in increasing access to MAT really about access to coverage. Right? And the availability and limits of insurance coverage for MAT. You state that patients with no insurance coverage for MAT could face prohibitive out of pocket costs that could limit their access to it, and if coverage for MAT varied for those individuals with insurance, and coverage varied, insurance plans including state Medicaid plans did not always cover the medications, and they sometimes imposed limits on the length of treatment.

That said, we have the study that I earlier introduced from the American Journal of Public Health that stated that the ACA provides greater access to substance use disorder treatment through major coverage expansions, regulatory changes requiring the coverage of substance use disorder treatment, and existing insurance plans and requirements for SUD treatment to be offered on par with medical and surgery, as well as opportunities to integrate substance use into mainstream healthcare.

A Kaiser study, as mentioned previously, shows that four in ten adults with opioid addiction are covered by Medicaid, and 21 million Americans have gained coverage through the ACA including twelve million through Medicaid.

So, Ms. McNeill, do you believe that if the ACA is overturned, that this issue of coverage would be better or worse?

TRIANA MCNEIL: I'll invite my colleague Mary Denigan-Macauley to answer that.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: The question was, given all of the information I just shared, and your belief that access to coverage and provisions around coverage that makes it more difficult for people to get MAT, is this something that you believe would be made worse or better if the ACA was overturned?

MARY DENIGAN-MACAULEY: The GAO certainly would encourage any increased access to treatment, and Medicaid is one program that does access -- does improve access to treatment. So our concern would be ensuring that that remains.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: Do you have any estimates of how much was provided by Medicaid, or how much was spent by Medicaid on such treatment?

MARY DENIGAN-MACAULEY: We do not, but we do know that in those states that had Medicaid expansion, that there were more people that had the access, but we do not have a number.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: Thank you. And Director Carroll, one of your goals listed in your performance reporting supplement is that increasing the percentage of specialty treatment facilities providing MAT for opioid use by a hundred percent within five years.

I recently visited one such facility in my district. It seems to be a great program, but they spoke extensively about the challenges around coverage. And, the majority of their patients are covered by Medicaid, and others are covered by health insurance that, in many cases, they did not have prior to the ACA.

So, my question is, if the issue of coverage is exponentially exacerbated by a successful overturn of the ACA, how do you think you'd be able to accomplish this objective?

JAMES CARROLL, JD: Thank you. The - what's - I am bipartisan on this issue. We have to save lives regardless, and providing treatment to everyone is critical to do this.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: Well, and to be clear, I'm not - I'm not making this about partisanship. I want to know -

JAMES CARROLL, JD: Oh, me neither.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: - if, I'm concerned about what the courts are going to do so I honestly want to know what is going to happen if the ACA is overturned.

JAMES CARROLL, JD: In terms of, first, to talk about the Medicaid and the reimbursement, and as well as health insurance, we have to make sure that it's sustainable going forward.

And so to be able to make - give states the authority to help more at that level than at the federal level, to determine the, how they're going to provide treatment for people I think is critical.

And one of the things that we're also seeing is making sure for those people that do have insurance under the ACA, what we're seeing are copays that are so high that it's really not effective, and there is a report this week that was talking about copays for individuals under some of the ACA plans, I think it's six or eight thousand per year and twelve thousand for families.

And at that point, you really have to wonder whether it's working or not.

REPRESENTATIVE KATIE HILL: Right. Well, I mean, in large part that's because of the increasing pressure we've seen from other attempts to undermine the ACA, that the costs have gone up and copays have gone up as exponentially.

But, for me, I'm wondering, and I don't know if this is possible to request, but I would love to see some contingency plans, or other efforts from GAO and from your office on how that would - how such an overturn of the ACA would effect treatment.

JAMES CARROLL, JD: I'll see what we can get you as soon as possible.


DOUG MCVAY: That was from a hearing on federal drug policy held by the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform on May 9. You’re listening to Century of Lies. I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of Now, let’s hear my interview with best-selling author Michael Pollan.

Now, your new book, How To Change Your Mind, I understand the idea for it came about when you were interviewing cancer patients who had undergone psychotherapy using psychedelics. I should mention by the way that I'm a cancer survivor, fifteen years and counting. Anyway, tell us about your book, first of all.

MICHAEL POLLAN: Sure. Well, you know, it did start with a magazine article I did for The New Yorker a couple of years ago, called The Trip Treatment. And for that piece, I'd heard about these trials going on at both NYU and Johns Hopkins, where they were giving psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, to cancer patients, people who were struggling with what the doctors called existential distress, the terror and anxiety that accompanies that diagnosis and the fear of death.

And this struck me as the weirdest idea, that you would take a psychedelic when you were in that situation. But, they were finding that a single guided experience, and I'll explain in a minute what I mean by that, would really completely reset people's attitude toward death, and their cancer, and in many cases remove their fear of dying to an extraordinary degree.

And it was in the course of talking to a handful of these volunteers that I just became intensely curious to understand how a molecule could change something as profound as your existential predicament.

DOUG MCVAY: It's a thing - it, afterward, too, there's the PTSD, frankly, because you cannot deal with that dread while you're undergoing treatment. If you survive, when you survive, that's when suddenly it hits. It's ...

MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah, and you know, a lot of these survivors, actually, struggled of course, even when they'd been treated successfully, there is the fear of recurrence, and I'm sure you're familiar with that.

I remember interviewing this one woman, her name was Dinah Bazer, and she was about sixty, she had had ovarian cancer, it had been successfully treated, it was in remission, and she - but she was paralyzed by fear and she could not go about her life.

She heard about this trial at NYU, and participated, and had a guided psychedelic journey, and in the middle of that journey, like a lot of the cancer patients, she went into her body imaginatively, and she saw this black mass under her rib cage. She knew it wasn't her cancer because it wasn't in the right place, but she recognized it at once.

And she said, that's my fear. And when she saw her fear, this black mass, she screamed at it. She said, get the F out of my life. And with that, at that moment, it vanished. And it never came back, she said, and she said she realized during that experience that while she couldn't control her cancer, it was either going to come back or not, she could control her fear.

And it was the drug that allowed her to have that insight, and to really believe in it. And she has - she said her life was changed by it, and again, this is one day, not a drug you take every day, but one you take, you know, once or twice.

And she had, after that moment when the fear disappeared, she had this ecstatic experience, and she said - she said that I kissed the face of god. And I was really surprised when she said that to me because she had told me she was an atheist, and I said, but wait, aren't you an atheist? And she said, yes, I'm still an atheist.

And I said, well, you just said you kissed the face of god. And she said, well, we don't have any word big enough for what I felt, so I used the biggest word we have, and that's god. But I'm still an atheist.

DOUG MCVAY: Wow. Now, of course, you're not limiting your work on psychedelics, you're also looking at LSD, ayahuasca, ...

MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah. DMT, a drug called 5-MEO-DMT, which is a very powerful and strange psychedelic. Yeah, no, I looked at the whole range of them. Not all of them. I didn't look at mescaline very much.

But, I, you know, they're similar drugs in that they all effect the same receptors in the brain, the serotonin 2A receptors. So they have similar modes of action, but interesting distinctions, too.

So for example, LSD is not being used in the clinical research, at least in the United States, for a couple of reasons. One is it's a more controversial drug than psilocybin, which many people have never heard of, and also because it takes so long. The LSD experience is about twelve hours, and the psilocybin experience is about half that.

So, you know, you'd have to pay all the therapists and guides overtime if you were giving LSD to patients. It's just not practical.

DOUG MCVAY: I know there are various - there's some, there's a couple of pharmas that are working toward developing psilocybin as a medical therapy. What do you think, down the road, how far do you think we are from having, from FDA approval, of having actual psilocybin available for psychotherapy?

MICHAEL POLLAN: You know, not as far as you might think, or that I assumed a few years ago when I started on this work. The FDA, who obviously has to approve our drugs, just gave breakthrough therapy designation to psilocybin in the treatment of depression.

That means that the FDA will help the researchers, in this case a pharmaceutical company from England called Compass Pathways, to go through the approval process, and help them in the design of their trials and basically speed things along. So it could be in just a couple of years.

You know, they're basically - they've got to do - we've done phase two trials of psilocybin for several things, and the last phase is phase three, where you give it to a larger group, and that's - we're getting started on those phase three trials now.

So it may be, you know, within five years that doctors will have access to this treatment. But, I hasten to add, it's not going to be a deal where you, you know, get a prescription from your doctor for psilocybin and go to CVS, or Walgreen's, to get it filled.

It really is psychedelic assisted psychotherapy, so that the role of the therapist is as important as the role of the molecule, and you need someone to prepare you very carefully. There are usually two guides, a man and a woman, and they tell you what to expect before you even take the drugs. They give you advice, if something really terrifying happens, which often does, or sometimes does, how to deal with that. They call them flight instructions.

And the basic overall recommendation is that you surrender to whatever is happening. If you feel you're going crazy or dying or dissolving, go with it, don't try to fight it. It's when you fight it that you get a bad trip.

And then during the experience, which as I said lasts from four to six hours, the guides are with you the entire time, not saying much, but available to you, giving you a sense of comfort, you know, that somebody's watching over your body while your mind is traveling. And that's incredibly important.

And then, you come back the next day or two, and meet with your guides and tell them what happened, and they help you make sense of it. They kind of interpret it, and it's called an integration session. And that too is very important.

So it's important to understand, we're not just talking about a drug therapy. This is a hybrid of drugs and psychotherapy.

DOUG MCVAY: Here in Oregon, there is a ballot measure that's being circulated - well, an initiative petition that's being circulated to become a ballot measure, which would medicalize, in some respects, pretty much, the psilocybin. Of course, that would sort of - it's a short cut, not waiting for FDA.


DOUG MCVAY: What do you think of the - have you had a chance to look at the thing, do you have any thoughts?

MICHAEL POLLAN: Well, I gather - I gather that the language is still being worked on, so there's really nothing definitive to look at [sic: language was finalized, the ballot title and summary were certified by the Oregon Attorney General on Nov 16 2018, and petitioners are gathering signatures to have the measure placed on the 2020 ballot].

I understand the basic idea is to legalize in the state of Oregon psychedelic therapy, whether for sick people or not, and that that's a, you know, that's a pretty bold move. I have to read it before I can really make a judgment.

I think it's a very well intentioned effort to take the really good work that's going on in the underground, where I worked with several therapists who were working underground, because otherwise there's no access to this unless you're part of the trials, to make that work legal, and decriminalize it, or legalize it, I'm not sure exactly what it specifies.

In general, I think that ballot initiatives are not the best way to make law. I know we've made progress with cannabis using ballot initiatives, but cannabis is a very different drug, and, you know, it's just - this is a much bigger experience, you need - you need some guidance, you - the risks are much greater psychologically, and so, I worry a little about making these decisions right now while we're going through this FDA process.

I feel very protective of the research going on and I'd hate to see a backlash, if we begin having a political battle about psilocybin before people really understand it or know what it's about.

That said, you know, I gather it's a very carefully crafted initiative with training specified and will be done in consultation with state, you know, regulatory and health authorities and that kind of thing.

So I gather it's a very thoughtful approach. I just don't know, you know, why we don't wait for this process that is unfolding right now at the federal level. Is this the right time? You know, the thing about politics is, you not only have to decide what you want to fight for, but you have to decide when's the best time to fight for it, and my gut is this isn't quite the time. Maybe by 2020 it will be, and that's when it will be on the ballot.

But anyway, I'm coming to Portland on Saturday to speak, and I'm hoping to learn more about this initiative then, and with luck meet with the people behind it.

DOUG MCVAY: What kind of takeaways do you hope people will come away with?

MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah. Well, it's - it's actually an on-stage interview, and so I never know what we're going to talk about, but I - what I usually talk about is, tell a little bit about how I got involved in this work, why I think it's so important and actually promises a potential revolution in mental healthcare in this country.

You know, we have a mental health system, mental healthcare system that's really broken. Rates of depression, suicide, addiction, are climbing, the tools of psychiatry are even by psychiatrists' own admission really imperfect. They only deal with symptoms, many of them are addictive, they have really bad side effects.

And here comes a drug that's remarkably non-toxic, non-addictive, that you don't have to take every day for the rest of your life, that can not just address symptoms but in many cases cure people of things like alcoholism and smoking addiction and cocaine addiction and potentially other things as well.

So, it's a very exciting time, and I like to talk a little bit about what the researchers are up to, tell some stories about the volunteers I've interviewed, and then I go into my own experience, because I felt I couldn't write this book without knowing from the inside what psychedelic therapy looks like.

So I had a series of guided journeys on psilocybin, but also on LSD and ayahuasca, and 5-MEO-DMT, and, you know, they were amazing travel stories, and so I'll share some of those also.

And we always of course take questions from the audience, and this debate over - it's very timely to be in Portland because this, you know, you are, as often is the case, you're going to be on the forefront.

There was a decriminalization initiative that was passed last week in Denver that would basically make psilocybin crimes, at least for possession and use and cultivation, the lowest priority for the police department. I would have supported that if I, you know, lived in Denver and had the vote there. But in general, I'm a little cautious about legalization because I think that people are using the model of cannabis and the drugs could not be more different.

This drug is - the stakes are much higher, it has to be treated with a lot of reverence and preparation, and I just don't think we know exactly how to - yet, how to fold this into our society in a way that will be safe and constructive.

DOUG MCVAY: There would obviously have to be some very specific training for the guides, I mean, this doesn't sound like - it's certainly not standard psychotherapy, from my understanding.

MICHAEL POLLAN: No, and there are, you know, that training is going on. I mean, there is a program in San Francisco at an institution called the California Institute for Integral Studies that is offering now a certificate in psychedelic therapy. That's how far we've come.

The MAPS organization, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, is offering trainings, and then of course there are underground trainings going on all the time. So, yeah, training is very important.

You know, the other thing you have to do is qualify people to take the drug. In other words, it's not for everyone. People at risk of serious mental illness, things like schizophrenia or manic depression, they are disqualified from the university trials, and so it's very important that you be interviewed by someone, and the doctor has signed off, I think, before you take this drug.

You know, in my case, you know, I was nearing sixty when I first took the drugs, and I went to my cardiologist to get his opinion, because I had something called afib, which is an irregular heartbeat, occasional irregular heartbeat, and so, you know, people need to be careful, and I think we send the wrong message if we simply legalize these drugs by ballot initiative.

DOUG MCVAY: I should probably ask you to give us your social media so people can follow you out there on twitter and such, and then if you have any closing thoughts for our listeners?

MICHAEL POLLAN: Yeah. Well, I am on twitter, @MichaelPollan, and I have a website with a lot more resources and information on psychedelics, and also all my articles that I've published are there for free, and it's

You know, as usual, I'm excited to come to Portland. It's one of the great book towns in America, and I was there last year on publication. This is actually the paperback that's coming out now, but I was there on publication and we had two thousand people in the Symphony Hall there, it was a very exciting evening, and I'm hoping this will be the same, so I'm hoping people will come. I'll be there to answer questions, sign books, and engage in I think what is one of the most exciting debates going on.

We have the potential here, as I said, to revolutionize mental healthcare, and boy, do we need to do that.

DOUG MCVAY: That was my interview with Michael Pollan, best-selling author of many books including The Botany of Desire and his newest work, How To Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.

You can find information, details of his appearances, dates, et cetera, at his website

And that's it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network, on the web at I’m your host Doug McVay, editor of

The executive producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs, including this show, Century of Lies, as well as the flagship show of the Drug Truth Network, Cultural Baggage, and of course our daily 420 Drug War News segments, are all available by podcast. The URLs to subscribe are on the network home page at

The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts is on Facebook too, give its page a like and share it with friends. Remember: Knowledge is power.

You can follow me on Twitter, I'm @DougMcVay and of course also @DrugPolicyFacts.

We'll be back in a week with thirty more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.

05/01/19 Stanton Peele

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele joins us for the full half hour to discuss his forthcoming book: "Outgrowing Addiction - With Common Sense Instead of "Disease" Therapy"

Audio file



MAY 1, 2019

DEAN BECKER: All right, friends, this is Cultural Baggage, I am the Reverend Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we're going to bring in our guest, he's Doctor Stanton Peele. He's written a brand new book, I think it's going to hit the shelves, well, this month, certainly in a day or two I do believe.

The book is titled Outgrowing Addiction With Common Sense Instead Of Disease Therapy. And with that, let's go ahead and just bring him in. Doctor Stanton Peele, how are you, sir?

STANTON PEELE: Dean, it's great to talk to you all the way out in Texas. Fabulous.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it's good to hear from you. We've had our discussions over the years and I'm glad to say this new book really aligns with what I've been seeing, hearing, feeling, and that is we've way overdone it with this addiction.

STANTON PEELE: Well, it's -- some of [inaudible] says that it's common sense, and I agree it's common sense, but in other ways it so swings against the way that people think, that it's almost overwhelming for people to come to grips with it.

Let me ask you a question, for example, Dean.


STANTON PEELE: Have you ever taken a painkiller?

DEAN BECKER: I have. I've been one of those who, I don't appreciate downers, I'll just put it that way. I had my alliance with speed there in my youth, but downers have never appealed to me.

STANTON PEELE: So, you took a painkiller. Did you become addicted to it?

DEAN BECKER: No, I did not.

STANTON PEELE: So, when I go to an audience of 500 people, I say has anybody in this room taken a painkiller, and sometimes a couple of people raise their hand, but often out of hundreds, nobody raises their hand, and then I go, wow, that's just unbelievable, because aren't opioids the model drug for addiction? Don't they cause addiction? How come you didn't become addicted?

And the percentage of people that are exposed to the standard opioid molecule, which is the panorama for addiction, the paradigm for addiction, is minor, and yet we're told constantly, been told our whole history -- I mean, obviously I'm aware that the title of your program is Cultural Baggage. We're carrying an albatross around in our brains that overwhelms us. The idea that narcotics are the cause of addiction, there's something in them that traps.

Even Sam Quinones, people that write -- have you ever had Sam Quinones on, by the way?

DEAN BECKER: I do not think so, no sir.

STANTON PEELE: So he wrote Dreamlands, and he has whole chapters describing how the heroin molecule, the opioid molecule, captures the brain. And yet, everybody knows that you take painkillers, and then you stop taking painkillers when your pain ceases, and when I ask you why that is, the best answer, which just came to me from a student at Leeds, because I had things to do.

Drugs don't capture people. Drugs and other addictive experiences provide an experience in which people can become immersed, that they find reassuring and comforting and predictable, that can overwhelm the rest of their lives.

And the failure to come to grips with that recognition forever dooms us. And when I say dooms us, that may seem, like, a bit extravagant, you imagine, but let me just point out one example. We consider the modern brain disease model of addiction, it replaced the old AA model, which was causing a lot of problems, people were becoming a little disgruntled around it.

And so they invented the brain disease model. Alan Leshner and then Nora Volkow, the head of NIDA, she came into office in 2003. Are you aware of how many drugs, how drug deaths had proceeded between 2003 and current time, Dean?

DEAN BECKER: It's a multiple factor, I do know that.

STANTON PEELE: You've got it. It's exploded, and in any other land, in any other area of knowledge, if somebody was in charge of something and its negative consequences exploded, you would think their job might be in jeopardy. But now Nora Volkow.

Nora Volkow stays through Democratic and Republican administrations. The website at NIDA says the modern scientific theory of a brain disease of addiction is conquering addiction, and yet more and more people die.

Now, how do I resolve that tiny little discrepancy? Let me do that for you.


STANTON PEELE: By convincing people that drugs overwhelm you, that's cultural baggage. That cultural baggage determines that we become more and more vulnerable to addiction as we spread that idea, rather than telling people, and here's where I come in best with drug policy: drugs are one of the panoply of your experiences that can be handled better or worse depending on your involvement and your engagement in life, how the people around you behave, and what your belief system is.

And believing that drugs are uncontrollable in fact contributes to our addiction. Now here's the most -- if I've said anything too radical, you know, all these ideas are contained of course in my book with Zach Rhodes, Outgrowing Addiction With Common Sense Instead Of Disease Therapy.

But here's the most alarming, I'm going to say something so radical, I hope they don't take you off the air, Dean. Are you there, Dean?

DEAN BECKER: No cuss words. No cuss words.

STANTON PEELE: We don't care. We, people are more concerned to sound, believe what everybody else believes, they're more concerned to say, well, we're doing something scientific about it, and the death rate surging, it actually doesn't really concern us.

And here's one reason that it doesn't concern us. Dean, if you had to guess what state has the highest opioid death rate, where would you guess it would be located?

DEAN BECKER: I'm going to guess Florida.

STANTON PEELE: That's a good guess, because there's so many treatment centers in Florida, but that's a whole other topic. There are people who are herded there into treatment centers.

As somebody from -- a woman named Gross interviewed me for the Times about six years ago, I said isn't it great that they have communities of people who never leave treatment communities now, and that was like, Delray Beach, and those people stay there, they relapse time and again, they're tested time and again, they're money producers for the treatment centers, and they have a remarkably high death rate.

But the answer's no, there aren't enough of them. And, you have to go where -- let me ask you a quiz question: do you think rich or poor people die more often from drugs?

DEAN BECKER: Oh, probably poor. Less access to --

STANTON PEELE: That's always your best bet, isn't it?

DEAN BECKER: I guess so.

STANTON PEELE: That if something bad is happening, that's the way to go. The state with the highest death rate from drugs is West Virginia, one of the poorest states. They don't have the highest prescription rate for drugs. But they have the highest death rate, and the man who in -- [Rahul Gupta] was an Indian doctor who was brought into to become their health commissioner.

He studied every single drug death in 2017, in the state of West Virginia. Were they young or old, do you think?

DEAN BECKER: Just retired. I don't know, I'm guessing.

STANTON PEELE: They're middle aged, which goes against the whole idea, I mean, we're already talking about cultural baggage and misnomers, if it's really overdose deaths, young people would die more often. They're people 45 to 60, what's that indicate, when people like that are dying around drugs, what's that say to you?

DEAN BECKER: Boredom. I don't know. Could that be it?

STANTON PEELE: They're not bored. They're tragic. They're people whose lives have been decimated in general, they're unemployed, they never had good employment prospects. Do you think they're married or single?

DEAN BECKER: Recently divorced, I'm guessing again.

STANTON PEELE: They're single. They're people who are not connected to the world. Dean, you're going to have to -- just move with me now. They're human beings that -- the term that's popularly given to them now, which is very descriptive, they have deaths of despair. They're drug related, alcohol related, and suicide.

They're people with little to launch them into life, or connect them to life. And, we're sewing instead the idea that drugs cause death. And really, life causes death, a certain type of life.

But, why the disease model's so well liked, the disease model and the anti-drug model are the same model. You understand that, Dean?


STANTON PEELE: If you believe the disease model, you're buying into drugs are bad. A disease model is antithetical, fundamentally, to any drug policy reform, because they're telling people drugs cause you to get addicted, you can't stop, it doesn't matter, anything about your life. Why bother to help people get housing or become educated, or to give them support, or to strengthen their communities? The drugs will kill you.

And so, when they make a movie, a best-selling movie, and by the way, heroin deaths of course are greatest in two urban counties, Allegheny County outside of -- around Pittsburgh, and Baltimore County, where drug deaths are around 70 per hundred thousand a year.

In West Virginia, there are around 59 per hundred thousand per year. No state has anywhere near that level. And, we're not going to cure what is wrong with West Virginia. We're not going to cure what's wrong with Allegheny County, we're not going to cure what's wrong with Baltimore.

And in fact, we don't even try. We've disinvested in America, from trying to deal with giving people housing, we used to have work programs, you go and get education and housing, and we've divested that money, we've diverted that money to drug education -- drug education and drug treatment, which is the horse coming after the tail.

People whose lives are lost to drugs and addiction use -- and addictive circumstances, we then say, well, why don't we treat them, as opposed to doing the basic kinds of things that encourage human beings to be able to lead lives without addiction.

And now here's my worst -- I'm going to give you my worst piece of information, but it's got something of a silver lining.


STANTON PEELE: In a large degree, the drug reform movement has followed the medical disease people down the rabbit hole.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

STANTON PEELE: The two biggest cures, proposed drug reform ways for dealing with drug deaths, are, and I go to these conferences in New York and elsewhere, and people say, we're doing really great. We've cut back the amount of opioids we're prescribing. So, that should do it, shouldn't it?

No more drug overdose deaths, right? Opioid prescriptions have declined steadily for the last five years, and not only have opioid deaths increased over the last five years, through to 2017 at least, we're still analyzing the 2018 data, but deaths due to cocaine, meth, heroin, synthetic narcotics, synthetic opioids, opioid painkillers, and even benzodiazepines have all increased.

We've got this great idea, it's a medical disease, let's cut back the amount of drugs that people have, let's tell them if they touch drugs they're going to be addicted, and more and more people are dying.

And yet, we can't come to grips with that, and we don't deal with it at all. So what do we -- go on.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Doctor Peele, I just wanted to interrupt to let folks know, we are speaking with Doctor Stanton Peele. He's author of a brand new book, just hitting the shelves I think in the next day or two. It's titled Outgrowing Addiction With Common Sense Instead Of Disease Therapy.

I want to say this, it's got an introduction and some references to a couple of guests that have been on the Cultural Baggage show, including Maia Szalavitz and Doctor Carl Hart, and last week's guest, had a recommendation for this book, Mister Ethan Nadelmann, as well.

I hesitate -- I'm sorry I interrupted you there, Doctor, but I want --

STANTON PEELE: No, go ahead, I looked over your programs, and I saw, you know, I just had dinner with Ethan a couple of weeks ago, we're both in New York now. Thank him for doing that.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yes sir.

STANTON PEELE: Of all those people that you mentioned, let's give a little bit more of my background while we're at it, if you don't mind.


STANTON PEELE: Hard to believe ....

DEAN BECKER: Go ahead.

STANTON PEELE: I wrote a book called Love And Addiction in 1975, which, you know, people are always asking, is he still alive? And Love And Addiction, in general, people see there's a whole new route for thinking about addiction, and everybody you mentioned: Maia Szalavitz in Unbroken Brain talks about Love And Addiction. Carl Hart and Mark Lewis and Ethan Nadelmann, all three of them wrote what's called blurbs for my book, you can see them on the book.

They all said really good things, and here's what Mark Lewis said, bless his little heart: You were the pioneer. You put these ideas out there long before anyone else was thinking this way. These ideas continue to reverberate in the addiction world and influence many people, many besides me. They're proliferating, surging rather than evaporating.

And let me tell you what those ideas are that I -- I either introduced or popularized, or made aware in the community.

That addiction is not limited to drugs. Drugs don't cause addiction, and people still have a hard time coming to grips with it, but the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association doesn't call any drug addictive or dependence producing. They've gotten away from that terminology. But the word addiction does appear in the volume called DSM-Five. They call it behavioral addiction.

And if you look me up in Wikipedia, what they say is that I discovered or invented this process model of addiction. I think they mean, well, Stanton Peele says that you can become addicted to something that's not a drug, but that's not accurate.

People become addicted as we described in Outgrowing Addiction through a process of turning to an experience produced by and involved, and then drugs are a pretty good way to get that kind of experience, they're very predictable. If you inject heroin or snort cocaine, or smoke, you're going to get your onset of the experience pretty rapidly.

But that's not -- the addiction is to that experience in relation to the rest of your life as you turn to it, the fundamental gratification has become less connected to the rest of your life.

And the good news in Outgrowing Addiction is, contrary to what is told all over this universe, Dean, do you think most people outgrow addiction?

DEAN BECKER: I believe nearly all people do.

STANTON PEELE: God bless you Dean. Besides having a title like Cultural Baggage, that last statement puts you in my permanent hall of fame. Nearly all people do, over ninety percent -- we do national surveys of people's lifetime of drug and alcohol use, spend quite a bit of money doing that, over 40,000 people are randomly selected and interviewed face to face, and over ninety percent of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol addicted people overcome it.

The only one that gets a little bit below ninety is smoking. So, that's a second constant, aside from the idea that addiction is not limited or determined by drugs. The fact is natural recovery is the normal course of events. Harm reduction is an idea that I've been endorsing and espousing since the early Eighties.

And now comes the harder part, that I'm still -- so you might say, this is my, I'm giving you my resume. I've been promoting and been on the cutting edge of ideas that are still just popping up now. Natural recovery's only just now becoming -- people are only becoming aware of it, and I've been describing them for, you know, I started writing Love And Addiction over fifty years ago.

But here are the tougher things to know. Environmental factors, community, people's involvement and engagement in life, are the most important determinants of overcoming addiction, and if we don't allow and encourage and enable people to do that, then they're not -- then we're going to have more addict -- addicts all the time, and therefore I'll make a broader point, one I know you're in line with.

To the extent that we have a deterioration of economic and community opportunities, inequality is one of the major sources of addiction. It's not an accident that the highest death rates from opioids and suicide occur in counties that voted for Donald Trump. Those are people -- and inner cities -- who are hurting the most, that's the way our society is organized, and they're the most likely to be addicted.

But let me give you one last, I know our time together's --

DEAN BECKER: But, let me interrupt you, I told you --


DEAN BECKER: I told you we're going to do 20 minutes, but if you have the time, I'm going to keep you around for about another eight as we wrap up this show.

STANTON PEELE: There's -- let me just tell you one tricky thing. I told you that the greatest drug policy reform efforts now are misguided.

DEAN BECKER: I'm with you there.

STANTON PEELE: Drug policy reform -- drug policy reform people think that we can solve addiction by cutting back on pain pills. I go to these conferences, people say we're doing so great cutting back on prescriptions for painkillers.

Unfortunately, and in New York this is true as well as around the country, in 2017 they reached peak levels of deaths, and the same is true for medicine-assisted treatment. Let me be clear, I mean, something like Narcan can save lives, there's no question about it.

And generally speaking, when people are administered opioids -- methadone, buprenorphine, and even heroin, they're unlikely to die because of being under supervision.

And yet, the places where MAT are most ensconced are inner cities, and the death rate in the last several years around heroin has been growing there despite the expansion of these programs.

How does that work? Because if people are convinced that the only way that they can overcome addiction is by relying on a substitute, at some point, most of them are going to get off that medication. That's just the way life works.

And then they're completely out of touch with their ability to regulate their own behavior. They're staying to themselves, and they're more likely to die at the end of that regime, of that medical regime.

And so, to a large extent, my message is, even a drug reform movement has bought into the magical solution that addiction is a medical disease that can be solved by a medical treatment, including drug -- either removing drugs or providing other drugs, and it can't be.

So let me just end with one positive note, and one other mention of what I've been talking about for the last seven thousand years. The Drug Policy Alliance -- I'm not at this conference but I'll speak about it -- the Drug Policy Alliance is having a workshop and conference series in San Francisco called, it's Alternatives To Coercion In Drug Treatment And Mental Health Settings.

And, its dates are I think May 16 to May 19, and let me just read to you the description of the conference. I don't know the people describing this, but: Today's treatment facilities too often mirror the cruelty of prisons and the asylum.

In other words, the assumptions underlying it -- I'm speaking now -- that drugs are the cause of the problem, as opposed to the institutional situation, is the same on these treatment regimes as they are in the putting people in jail regime, with little regard for the scientific evidence about what works.

It's Katherine Celentano, Policy Coordinator of the Drug Policy Alliance. The same indignities associated with criminalization are too often reproduced by public health and treatment interventions that fail to prioritize consent, and I might say they also fail to prioritize the dignity and respect and self-efficacy, agency of the human being.

And, I do beg to differ with one part of this description. It says, this is the first conference where this topic is being discussed. It's a novel thing, but I want to point out my little history with drug policy reform, which you may know about, Dean, we may have run into each other.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

STANTON PEELE: In 1996, before there was a Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan, my old friend that you interviewed, invited me to debate Bob Millman. And my topic was that results for drug reform goals of shifting from interdiction and punishment to treatment, and here's what I wrote, in 1996.

Stanton says that that won't work. Expanding the treatment system will, one, expand what is already largely coercive treatment, serving as an adjunct to the criminal justice system, which means people are forced into treatment all the time through drug courts. Two, this approach refuses to acknowledge non-harmful use, and force mainly non-problem users into treatment.

I mean, when you get people who are using drugs, you say, well, we want to put them into treatment, although most of them don't want or don't need treatment.

Three, here's the critical thing, they serve, the treatment movement serves to divert social resources from the worst off people in our society, and puts them into these intensive treatment regimes that are not effective.

And lastly, they have an overall negative outcome, impact on outcomes for drug users in the United States because they create the ultimate in cultural baggage, that we can't, I mean, drugs are everywhere.

People take drugs all the time, we're taking more and more antidepressants, we're taking more and more painkillers, we're taking more and more medications for bipolar disorder, obviously it's not hard to get -- marijuana is legalized, and people drink all the time, and they're not -- alcohol's a high end product, the better off people are the more likely they are to drink.

Escaping substance is not, and believing that substances control us, is not the root of either drug policy reform or to helping the individual.

By the way, I wanted to mention one other thing. My co-author Zach Rhodes also works with me on something called the Life Process Program,, which is an online coaching program for people with addictive problems.

People overcome addictions or avoid addictions to the extent that they keep becoming engaged in life, develop positive and productive activities, feel okeh about themselves and deal with mental issues, form families and communities, and believe that they have the power, the agency, to avoid addiction, even when they are exposed to drugs or even when they choose to take drugs. And most of all that they deserve to lead a non-addicted life.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Doctor Peele, we're nearing the end here. I want to address this one thought, your book kind of rips the veneer off of Alcoholics Anonymous a bit. It leaves intact that in the beginning it may be of great use to some folks, but that it does not, I don't know, that AA is not required to continue that sobriety or even to remain sober, once one gains control of one's own thoughts.

STANTON PEELE: Well, the majority -- the large majority of people overcome alcohol dependence or alcoholism without treatment of any kind, three quarters of people.

Only about ten or twelve percent of them overcome alcoholism, according to the largest study even done, NESARC [National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions], by going to AA. There are more negative outcomes from going to AA than positive outcomes, because the general impact for even the people that go to it is to convince that, you know, you've heard of this, that they're powerless.


STANTON PEELE: That they need to go through their own lives to see what they've done wrong. It's not a skills training program, it does provide a community, which is never bad, but it's a community based on their own weakness, and their own belief of their inability to deal with life and the world, and more often than not, that's going to lead you down a garden path to despair and destruction.


STANTON PEELE: But I don't -- AA has been replaced in large part by the brain, chronic brain disease model, which sells the same American message --


STANTON PEELE: -- drugs are bad, they control you, you are incapable of escaping drugs and alcohol on your own, all of those are essential, fundamental addictive messages that you would never think unless you're wedded to some kind of, I inherited alcoholism model, that you would never think of giving your children, you -- Zach Rhodes is a developmental specialist, we have a lot about children in our book Outgrowing Addiction --

DEAN BECKER: Thirty seconds.

STANTON PEELE: -- the title expresses that if you were to create a child who's engaged in life and believes in his or her own efficacy is the best way to avoid addiction.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. Well, friends, once again, we've been speaking with Doctor Stanton Peele, author of a brand new book. I see the publication date is May 15, so two weeks from today, Outgrowing Addiction With Common Sense Instead Of Disease Theory -- Therapy.



STANTON PEELE: Dean, we have to talk every five or ten years, we'll have to keep going, so stay healthy, you hear what I mean?

DEAN BECKER: I hear you, sir, and Doctor Peele, thank you for being with us. I do have to shut her down, I've got another show to do here in two minutes.

STANTON PEELE: Good to see you, Dean. Bye bye now, bye bye.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, face chomping, lip eating, heart devouring, brain slurping, ecstasy, suicidality, zombie-ism. It's bath salts. We didn't quite get there.

And as always, because of prohibition you don't know what's in that bag, please, be careful.