Episode 25: The Lab

While overdoses in BC are climbing to unprecedented rates, some doctors still refuse to provide drug users with access to pharmaceutical versions of illicit drugs. Instead, many doctors view addiction as a chronic disease to be treated by limiting euphoria, prescribing “safer” analogues, or surveilling their patients.

On episode 25, Garth interviews Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Professor, Nancy Campbell, about the so-called “Brain Disease Model of Addiction” (BDMA). How did this idea rise in prominence and what does it misunderstand about the reasons why many people use drugs?

Works Cited

Campbell, Nancy. 2007. Discovering Addiction: The Science and Politics of Substance Abuse Research. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

———. 2008. The Narcotic Farm: The Rise and Fall of America’s First Prison for Drug Addicts. New York: Abrams.

Fast, Danya. 2021. “Going Nowhere: Ambivalence about Drug Treatment during an Overdose Public Health Emergency in Vancouver.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly.

Fast, Danya, and David Cunningham. 2018. “‘We Don’t Belong There’: New Geographies of Homelessness, Addiction, and Social Control in Vancouver’s Inner City.” City & Society 30 (2): 237–62.

Harlow, Harry. 1959. “Mother Love.” Carousel Film & Video, CBS Television Network.

Olsen, J.P., and Luke Walden. 2008. “The Narcotic Farm.” ITVS.

Preminger, Otto. 1955. “The Man with the Golden Arm.” United Artists.

Rasmussen, Nicolas. 2010. “Maurice Seevers, the Stimulants and the Political Economy of Addiction in American Biomedicine.” BioSocieties 5 (1): 105–23..

Tatum, A. L., and M. H. Seevers. 1931. “Theories of Drug Addiction.” Physiological Reviews 11 (2): 107–21. 

In Memoriam

On this week’s show, we remember our friend and comrade Hawkfeather Peterson’s son Edward Biggs, who died suddenly this month. Hawkfeather says, “he was only 22 years old. He hadn’t even begun to live life.” Rest in peace Edward.

Janis Warren was a harm reduction worker and the lead singer of the band Lashback. She died of a fatal overdose in May. Rest in peace Janis.

Gerrald Peachey–who most of us knew as Spike–was a drug user and a force within the movement. In 2018, he ran for city council with the campaign slogan “Put a Spike Through City Hall.” Rest in Peace Spike.


Crackdown is produced on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

Thanks this week to Nancy Campbell and Steve Pierce for their help locating and digitizing the archival footage you heard on this month’s show. Thanks, as well, to Steve for recording our conversation with Professor Campbell.

Our editorial board is: Samona Marsh, Shelda Kastor, Greg Fess, Jeff Louden, Dean Wilson, Al Fowler, Laura Shaver, Reija Jean. Rest in Peace Dave Murray and Chereece Keewatin.

This episode was conceptualized, written, and produced by Sam Fenn, Lisa Hale, Alex Kim, Danya Fast, Ryan McNeil, and Garth Mullins.

Original score was written and performed by James Ash, Sam Fenn, Kai Paulson and Garth Mullins.