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Trapped: Understanding Addiction
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Trapped: Understanding Addiction

Author: Ahana Wokhlu

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Trapped: Understanding Addiction explores the medical aspects and social implications of addiction. In this podcast, I’ll talk to experts about the science behind addictive behavior, how various substances affect the brain and body, how addiction impacts specific populations uniquely, and how our views on addiction and treatment have evolved. I will also speak with people who have had first-hand experience with a substance use disorder and get their insight on what it’s like to live with this condition.
13 Episodes
In this episode, I speak with Dr. Veronika Mesheriakova, Assistant Professor in the division of Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine at UCSF and the medical director of the UCSF Youth Outpatient Substance Use Program. Dr. Mesheriakova has vast knowledge of and experience in the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in adolescents. She lends her expertise in this interview to discuss the most commonly misused substances, the risk factors that predispose a teen to developing an addiction, and what parents and physicians can do to help adolescents fully recover and lead a healthy life.   Dr. Mesheriakova is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, American Society of Addiction Medicine and Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse. Learn more about Dr. Mesheriakova at
In the final installment of my drug facts series, I discuss sedative-hypnotic and anxiolytic drugs with Dr. Christopher Blazes, Director of the Addiction Psychiatry fellowship at Oregon Health and Science University. Dr. Blazes is triple board-certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry, and emergency medicine and has published and lectured extensively on benzodiazepine use. In this episode, he reviews the most commonly used drugs in the sedative-hypnotic class of medications, the risks associated with benzodiazepine dependence and addiction, and how patients who have a use disorder are treated. Learn more about Dr. Blazes at
For the sixth part of my drug facts series, I speak with Dr. Itai Danovitch, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai. Dr. Danovitch provides an in-depth summary of the physiology of cannabis and reviews both its beneficial and harmful effects (including use disorder), and how these effects differ based on the population using. He also discusses the different state policies regarding legalization of cannabis and why it might be time to reconsider federal drug scheduling so that this substance can be better researched.Dr. Danovitch has authored over 70 articles and book chapters and is the co-editor of two books on substance use disorders. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Past President of the California Society of Addiction Medicine, and a recipient of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. He also serves as a Governor-appointed Commissioner on the California Mental Health Services Commission.Learn more about Dr. Danovitch at
In the fifth installment of my drug facts series, I speak with Dr. Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Professor of Pediatrics in adolescent medicine at Stanford University and the founder of the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, an online curricular aimed at reducing and preventing youth tobacco use. Dr. Halpern-Felsher discusses the unique harm nicotine poses to teenagers, especially in the era of electronic cigarettes. She reviews the different methods of nicotine delivery, the available treatment options for nicotine addiction, and why quitting is always possible and beneficial.Dr. Halpern-Felsher is a developmental psychologist who has researched the cognitive and psychosocial factors involved in adolescents’ and young adults’ health-related decision-making, perceptions of risk and vulnerability, health communication, and risk behavior. Her research has focused on understanding and reducing health risk behaviors such as tobacco use, alcohol and marijuana use, risky driving, and risky sexual behavior and has influenced national policies regulating adolescent and young adult tobacco use.Learn more about Dr. Halpern-Felsher at
In the fourth part of my drug facts series, we cover cocaine with Dr. Kyle Kampman, addiction specialist and professor of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Kampman gives us a fascinating look back at the history of cocaine, reviews the ways in which cocaine is commonly misused, and explains intoxication, withdrawal, and the effectiveness of contingency management in the treatment of cocaine use disorder.Dr. Kampman has had extensive experience in the treatment of various substance use disorders. He has conducted a number of trials testing medications for the treatment of cocaine dependence and is a recognized authority on cocaine withdrawal syndrome. In addition to research, he works at the Addiction Recovery Unit of the Philadelphia VA Medical Center where he continues to treat patients with both medications and psychotherapy.Learn more about Dr. Kampman at
In this bonus episode, I speak with Dr. Adam Leventhal on the convergence of two public health crises - addiction and the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Leventhal reviews the challenges faced by those who struggle with substance use disorders during these difficult times and explains how an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed to solve the addiction crisis, both now and post-pandemic. Dr. Leventhal is the Founding Director of the Institute for Addiction Science and public health expert at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. Dr. Leventhal has authored over 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles, including publications in JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, and other journals. His work has been covered by the Associated Press, NBC Nightly News, New York Times, and other media outlets. Dr. Leventhal is active in policy arenas, having served on expert panels on the health effects of e-cigarettes and tobacco products for the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the US Surgeon General.Learn more about Dr. Leventhal at
In the third installment of my drug facts series, I talk about methamphetamine use with Dr. Jonathan Buchholz, Program Director of the Addictions Psychiatry Fellowship at the University of Washington and Medical Director of Inpatient Psychiatry at the VA Puget Sound. Dr. Buchholz discusses the epidemiology and physiology of methamphetamine use disorder, how amphetamines are commonly used and misused, and the most effective ways to treat a methamphetamine addiction.Learn more about Dr. Buchholz at
In part two of my drug facts series, I speak with Dr. Marc Schuckit, distinguished professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine. Dr. Schuckit has spent decades researching the genetic and environmental influences in alcohol use disorder. In this episode, he gives us an overview of the risk factors for developing an alcohol addiction, what treatments are currently available, and what measures can be taken to prevent this condition in susceptible individuals.Check out Dr. Schuckit’s research at
In the first part of my Drug Facts series, we will discuss opioids with Dr. Julio Meza, Program Director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship and Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at UCLA. Dr. Meza will give us an overview of where opioids come from, how they affect the brain and body, and how they rank in terms of potency and addiction potential. He will also explain the difference between dependence and addiction and review current and future strategies for the treatment and prevention of opioid use disorders. Dr. Meza was born and raised in El Salvador and graduated Cum Laude from Universidad Evangélica de El Salvador. After medical school, he came to the U.S. to complete his education in family and addiction medicine. Dr. Meza enjoys working with patients from all backgrounds and provides non-judgmental, compassionate care.Learn more about Dr. Meza at
In this episode, author David Poses breaks down the addict stereotype by talking about his struggle with depression and how his search for a cure was accompanied by feelings of guilt and shame. Although heroin relieved his symptoms, the stigma associated with his addiction only hindered his journey to recovery.As a writer, speaker, expert and activist, David Poses is focused on evidence-based addiction treatment, drug policy, and harm reduction. His writing has been published by Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and NY Daily News (among others), and he's appeared on various TV and radio shows and podcasts. He is the author of "The Weight of Air: A Story of the Lies about Addiction and the Truth about Recovery.”Check out David Poses on social media:
In this episode, we will talk to Dr. Elisabeth Poorman, an internal medicine doctor and addiction medicine specialist from the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Poorman is an accomplished writer and healthcare advocate. She will talk about what stigma is, how it affects the addiction community, and what healthcare providers and society as a whole can do to reduce stigma.Check out Dr. Poorman’s website at
In this initial episode, we will talk to Dr. Ilan Remler, Program Director of the Addiction Medicine fellowship at Kaiser Permanente for Northern California. Dr. Remler will define addiction, differentiate it from substance use, and explain how addiction changes the brain. He will also give an overview of current treatment strategies for substance use disorders based on this understanding.
Welcome to my podcast! Addiction is a widespread problem, and it is the basis for many of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. ​​The purpose of this series is to debunk common misconceptions about substance use disorders and to understand the science behind them. We will learn which treatments are effective, why reducing stigma is important, and how current policy might be improved to more effectively combat this growing epidemic.
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