What gave you the idea to begin a podcast, as opposed to using blogs or videos?
Since 21 percent of Americans 12 and older have listened to a podcast in the past month, it seemed like a great avenue to educate and entertain people about drug facts and prevention. Podcasts in the addiction industry primarily focus on living in recovery, which is so important. However, we haven’t seen any podcasts that solely relate to drug education. With the current opioid epidemic our nation is facing, drug prevention and education are crucial. It’s more important now than ever to teach adolescents and parents facts about drugs that are based on evidence and research. Even if we can reach 100 people with accurate drug information, that’s a positive impact that can make a big difference in their lives.
Why did you choose to begin the podcast on the subject of alcohol?
We chose alcohol because it’s a legal drug and not many people realize that it’s actually a drug. Also, it’s one of the most dangerous drugs, particularly because it’s legal. A lot of people - especially teens -- know that heroin can be very dangerous, but they don’t necessarily know that drinking alcohol can cause just as much damage, if not more. In reality, one of our recent surveys found that over 50 percent of people in treatment for substance abuse are also being treated for alcohol abuse. Alcohol is one of the most pervasive drugs, due in large part to its history in culture and society around the world, and it’s important to shed light on the risks that accompany drinking.
The topic of drugs can include a variety of areas. What all do you plan on covering over the course of the podcast?
Our mission is to present a variety of drug facts for each episode in a very concise and easy-to-digest way. We tend to cover topics that are really pertinent right now (e.g. bath salts, which are on the rise). We want to truly resonate with youth because they’re one of the most susceptible age groups. Their brains still develop well into their twenties. Everyone has a lot to lose, but adolescents can damage their brain for the long run.
The next series is called “9 Popular Drug Myths.” It was difficult to hone in on only nine myths because there is a lot of false information out there. The myths we chose are kind of silly sounding at first but are actually really serious. For instance, one misconception we debunk is whether or not using ecstasy causes holes in a brain. Not only do we want to address these issues, we also want to give context and valid facts for the listeners. The third series is called “Your Brain on Drugs,” and it’ll touch on what actually happens in the brain when you use drugs.
As the podcast progresses, would you consider inviting guests (e.g., people living in recovery) onto the show to talk about their history of drug abuse?
As it stands, the first two episodes of the series include interviews with Dr. Olivier George. He’s a great researcher and very realistic about presenting facts about drugs, which is incredibly refreshing. We’d love to have him back on the show.
In the future, I’d really like to host street interviews. I love NPR-style reporting and the concept of featuring real world stories. I think it’d be very interesting to get all perspectives of drug abuse, including those who are in recovery, people who are still in the thralls of addiction, loved ones, and even people who have tried drugs but didn’t end up on the streets as the typical stereotype suggests. Providing a variety of perspectives on drug use helps people critically think about substance abuse.
In relation to pop culture, how do you feel about shows like Shameless? Do you think their portrayal of drug use is beneficial or harmful towards discouraging drug use?
I haven’t seen Shameless, but shows that depict alcohol as fun or funny can be harmful to young, impressionable minds because the long-term health repercussions often go without representation and consideration. For instance, the popular television comedy, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, features heavy drinking in many episodes as a fun part of their everyday lives. However, the reality of what would actually happen to a person if they engaged in those risky behaviors vastly differs from what’s presented.
There’s a huge opportunity to create conversations around movies and TV shows that get people to critically think and, as a result, reduce the stigma associated with addiction. Historically, this health issue has been stigmatized because of antiquated messages of the past such as, “just say no” and, “this is your brain on drugs, any questions?” Those messages made people feel ashamed, guilty, and afraid to speak up and ask for help. I’d love to see more open conversations about these topics in pop culture. I think we’re beginning to see a shift, especially looking at Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. While the TV show stirred a lot of controversy with its plotline around bullying, suicide, and binge drinking, people started discussing the consequences of these behaviors.
When and where can people listen to the podcast?
We release a new episode every Monday afternoon, so it’s perfect for the commute home. You can listen to “Let’s Talk Drugs” on Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube. You can also find it on our website at www.projectknow.com/podcasts/lets-talk-drugs/.