What are the harms of cannabis? Can MDMA be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder? Is red wine good for you? Are menthol cigarettes more harmful than regular cigarettes, or less harmful?
It can be very hard to get an accurate picture of what we know (and what we don’t) about recreational drugs and their effects. Partly, this is because this type of research is notoriously tricky to do – you can’t randomly assign a group of teenagers to drink, a group to smoke, a group to use cannabis, and a group to do none, and then see what happens to whom over time. We rely on observing what people choose to do, and those who choose to use drugs are likely to be different from those who don’t in a variety of ways aside from drug use. Accounting for these differences is challenging, and makes researchers cautious when interpreting their findings. But as well as this, studies that are published are often sensationalised or misreported in the media, which can lead to misconceptions about the effects of recreational drugs being commonplace.
My podcast Say Why To Drugs aims to provide information without hyperbole, spin, or judgement, about the scientific evidence surrounding recreational drugs, both legal and illegal. Each episode will see me (an epidemiologist and experimental psychologist interested in understanding associations between substance use and mental health) in conversation with rapper and podcaster Scroobius Pip. Pip’s Distraction Pieces podcast network is hosting Say Why To Drugs, as well as an upcoming podcast from LEAP UK, called Stop and Search. Series one is five episodes long, and covers cannabis, tobacco, alcohol, MDMA and ketamine.
The first episode of Say Why To Drugs will be available to listen to here on Thursday 19th May with subsequent episodes released fortnightly. The trailer is already available to listen to now.
To keep up to date with the podcasts and join in the conversation, find Suzi on twitter.
Dr Suzi Gage is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bristol, investigating associations between substance use and mental health, and writes the Sifting the Evidence column on The Guardian. Tweets @soozaphone
Feature artwork by Adam Richardson @mynameisad