The History of Drugs In Society

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15. Opiate Addiction, East & West - Opium as a Drug, 1800s (Season 1.4)

In the fourth episode of the season, I'm going over addiction in the East and the West. The episode starts by talking about addiction briefly before laying out some basic history of addiction and intoxication. From there, I cover issues with opium smoking in China before shifting to how addiction differed in the West at the time. I also talk about morphism, the Civil War, and where usage stood heading into the 1900s. In the next episode, I'll cover some medical history relating to morphine and heroin and then will cover Prohibition. 


If you have any questions, feel free to reach out on or on Twitter, @DrugsHistory.

14. Announcement July 21 2020 - Sorry for the delay

Sorry I've gone radio silent the last two weeks. Thanks to some lovely Lyme disease, I've been really out of it and needed to take it easy for a bit. I'm hoping to release the next season episode in a week or two. 


I also want to create more of a focus for the interviews. If you have ideas, feel free to reach out - or @DrugsHistory on Twitter. 


Be well! 

13. The History of Drug Prohibition in Mexico with Nidia Olivera

This week’s ep features Nidia Olivera, who is a professor at the National School of Anthropology teaching history and drug history specifically. She is also a current PhD candidate at the Mora Institute, where she is looking at the ancient and modern history of psychoactive substances and drug policies in Mexico. 

We talked about the history of drug prohibition in Mexico from the time the Spanish arrived through the 1950’s. We covered a wide swath of history and we couldn’t cover everything, so I’m including some additional resources below. Feel free to reach out on @DrugsHistory or on email,

Nidia’s suggested resources:

Some others:

If you like Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast, check out season 9. A Narco History is a short book that gives a good high level political history. Dawn Paley’s Drug War Capitalism provides an interesting theory in terms of the economic role of deciding specific drug policies.

12. Intelligent Speech Conference Tomorrow! Late Announcement

Late announcement, but it looks like I'll be joining the list of speakers at Intelligent Speech Conference which is taking place virtually on Saturday, June 27th. Tickets are only $15 and you'll get to see a bunch of great, different podcasters. The topic for this year is Hidden Voices and there are a lot of panels that I'm excited to catch. I think I'll be on 12:15p. 

There's a trailer for Intelligent Speech that starts around 1:24. See you there! 



11. Synthetic Opioid Policy with Jirka Taylor

For this week's bonus episode of the History of Drugs in Society, I spoke to Jirka Taylor about synthetic opioid policy. Jirka is currently a Policy Analyst at the RAND Corporation. A social scientist by training, his research portfolio mainly focuses on drug policy and criminal justice more broadly and he explores where those systems intersect with healthcare and social services. We talk about policy responses to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. 

Feel free to reach out on Twitter (@DrugsHistory) or over email (

You can read more of Jirka’s research here:

10. Impacts of COVID on EU Drugs Markets with Andrew Cunningham

For this week's bonus episode of the History of Drugs in Society, I spoke to Andrew Cunningham who heads the drug markets, crime and supply reduction section of the EMCDDA, which stands for European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and is the main drug-focused agency across the EU. This interview is focused on a recent report titled “EU Drug Markets Impact of COVID-19“ that was co-authored by Andrew, his colleagues at the EMCDDA, and colleagues at Europol. 


9. Britain, China, & the Opium Trade - Opium as a Commodity Pt. 2, 1600s-1800s (Season 1.3)

This episode, the second of two exploring opium as a commodity, focuses on the British role in the opium trade in the 1700-1800s and an overview of the market as we head into the 1900s. I focus on the expansion of the British in India, the Opium Wars, the opium trade overall, and how this sets the stage for prohibition. 


Suggested podcasts:

8. Update June 9 2020

Just explaining why I didn't publish last week and what to expect in the coming weeks. I hope you're doing well

7. Fentanyl with Prof. Jon Caulkins

Hello and welcome to the History of Drugs in Society, where we explore the history of different substances and how we’ve lived alongside and interacted with them. I’m your host, Eugene Leventhal. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how fentanyl markets came about and how they look like today, you should enjoy this discussion. In this episode, I interview Jon Caulkins, who is a University Professor Of Operations Research And Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College. Our interview focuses on fentanyl in the United States, looking at both the history and current state of fentanyl market. We talk about the impact of COVID-19 on fentanyl markets, what evidence there has been of fentanyl being mixed with other drugs, and what a term like morphine equivalent dose means and why it’s important to know. We also touch on safe supply, regional and international trends in synthetic opioid usage, and where data on overdoses come from. 

Pulling from his bio on the Heinz College site, “Jon Caulkins has been on the Heinz College faculty since 1990, with leaves of absence to be co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center in Santa Monica (1994-1996), to found RAND’s Pittsburgh Office (1999-2001), and to teach at Carnegie Mellon’s campus in Doha, Qatar (2005-2011).



Here is the link to the UN report mention

Other links:

6. Needle Exchange Service in Philadelphia with Clayton Ruley, Prevention Point Philadelphia

My guest this week is Clayton Ruley, who is the Director of Community Engagement and Volunteer Services for Prevention Point Philadelphia. We talk about harm reduction overall as well as how these services have been affected as a result of COVID-19. We also get into questions regarding community, policy, and what makes Clayton most hopeful in terms of harm reduction. 


In case you want to learn more:

Prevention Point Philadelphia


  • What is prevention point and what do they do - 1:58 
  • What’s your background - 2:56 
  • What brought you to Phill - 3:52
  • Importance of community in terms of managing addiction - 4:15
  • Internal vs external community - 5:52
  • How has Covid affected needle exchange services - 6:38 
  • How have the operations changed - 9:00
  • Is prevention point involved in the mail home narcan program - 10:13
  • How might harm reduction change moving forward - 10:52
  • Any concerns of increased usage during social isolation - 14:15
  • Policy changes you want to see change - 15:23
  • What makes you most hopefully in terms of harm reduction - 16:16
  • Anything that makes you least hopeful - 17:31
  • Any organizations to highlight - 19:32
  • How can people support prevention point - 20:36
  • Outro - 22:03
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