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Listen Up! Podcasts on Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery

One of the best ways to address stigma is to share as much knowledge and as many personal stories as we can.  We recently posted our list of books, BookSmart, to help start open conversations about substance use within families, classrooms, and communities.  While some people enjoy books and novels as one way to learn about addiction, there are some remarkable podcasts out there.

Here’s what we love about podcasts: they help us feel the stories being told. In the case of addiction and recovery, podcasts give us access to a deeper level of connection, understanding, and empathy with the storytellers and topics. So, we curated a list of podcasts that we believe can assist all of us in gaining more knowledge and perspective as we look to find solutions and provide support around mental health and addiction.

Let’s start with  podcasts centered around substance use and addiction, both how we got where we are today and what we can do about it.

Last Day

“Let’s talk about what’s killing us, the stuff that’s hard to comprehend and getting worse every day. Lemonada co-founder and author Stephanie Wittels Wachs confronts massive epidemics with humanity, wit, and a quest for progress. Starting with overdose deaths and the opioid crisis, we zoom in on a person’s last day of life, exploring how they got there and how we, as a society, have gotten here.”

Each episode of Last Day is an incredibly open  look at one topic within the addiction epidemic. A staff favorite is the episode titled “Trauma”, which digs into how we can better understand our lives in order to unlock new doors to addressing addiction. So, you can start at that episode or you can start at the beginning and follow the host’s story of losing her brother to an overdose a few years ago.   Please note: Last Day contains strong language, mature themes, and may not be appropriate for all listeners. 

Links: Apple, Spotify

On Drugs

“Each week, On Drugs looks through the lenses of history, pop culture and personal experience to understand how drugs have shaped our world. Because even if it’s just caffeine or ibuprofen, there’s a good chance you’re on drugs right now.”

This podcast by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation has concluded, but still remains an incredible resource for learning how  substances are intertwined with many aspects of our lives and society. The early episodes of the podcast are dedicated to a cultural staple, from war, to sex, to fun, and the way substance use intersects with it. There is truly no wrong episode to enter into this podcast. Staff favorites include “The Spell of the Poppy”, “The Trouble with Rehab”, “Race, On Drugs”.  Jeff, the host, does a great job of giving content warnings before episodes and sections of episodes that may not be suitable for everyone.

Links: Apple Podcasts. Spotify

Beauty in the Grit

Beauty in the Grit is a storytelling podcast from Ariel (Air) Britt. She shares five real stories from her journey in recovery and stories from others that have inspired her along the way. With her raw candor and big heart, Air gives listeners access to hope to help them heal through shared experiences.”

In its 5-episode run this past year, Britt turned the heart and soul of recovery into a beautiful podcast — making the most out of short-form episodes running about 15 minutes each. Whether you need a quick check-in during the week, or want to binge all 78 minutes, this is a podcast you won’t want to miss.  (Full disclosure: Britt is now our Senior Director of SAFE Campuses!)

Links: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher

Recovery Unscripted

“Each episode explores a different, relevant topic through in-depth conversations with a variety of influential and knowledgeable figures, from expert clinicians and politicians to inspiring authors and grassroots champions of the recovery community. Recovery Unscripted is your source for current, meaningful dialogues about the issues that matter to you.”

Recovery Unscripted is a wealth of information with over 100 episodes that cover a wide-variety of topics from many different perspectives. Episodes from Michaell Botticelli, one of the nation’s leading addiction experts, and journalist Sam Quinones are great places to start, but we also recommend scrolling through the episodes to see which topics really connect with you!

Links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify

Alongside full podcast series dedicated to these topics, many larger and more popular podcasts episodes that touch on addiction, treatment, and recovery in really amazing ways. 

Below are four great episodes from popular podcasts that aren’t solely focused on addiction. These episodes include conversations with experts that each provide different perspectives on addiction and add important considerations to how we can approach the incredible diversity among people who struggle with substance use.

Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd: Dr. Drew

Host Dax Shepard’s show is rooted in his fascination in the “messiness of being human.”  His vulnerable and honest conversations help us learn more about influential people, and Dax credits his capacity to do so to his experiences as a person in recovery. It’s almost inevitable that recovery and addiction will come up in every episode in some way as Dax shares pieces of his journey to set the stage for his guests to do the same. While the podcast as a whole isn’t dedicated to recovery, we recommend his episodes with John Gottman (on relationships), Brené Brown (on shame), and Dr. Drew. Dr. Drew’s episode is linked below where he speaks about his career and his reasoning for advocating 12-step programs throughout his work.

Links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify

TED Talks Daily: Johann Hari

Since it was posted in 2015, Johann Hari’s TED Talk titled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong” has been viewed 15 million times. This podcast episode is the audio from that talk. In this 15-minute speech, Hari pushes us to challenge some of the long-standing misperceptions about addiction and the War on Drugs. Its conclusion — that we must approach addiction through hope and compassion — is always a welcome reminder.

Links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify

The One You Feed: Maia Szalavitz on Addiction

In this episode of Eric Zimmer’s podcast on improving our quality of life through the ways we think, he speaks with Maia Szalavitz, award-winning author of “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction.” In their conversation, Eric and Maia ask critical questions about what has led us to much of the current dysfunction within the addiction and treatment industry. Szalavitz shares her perspective and research of addiction as a brain learning disorder and how that may help lead us into more effective approaches to substance use.

Links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify

The True Neighbor with Tom Brier

Tom Brier, Democratic candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania’s Tenth District, breaks down the latest news on the COVID-19 crisis in Central PA and presents inspiring stories from citizens on the front lines of the pandemic response efforts. In this episode, Tom is joined by Jeff Horwitz, Chief Operating Officer of SAFE Project, to discuss the dangerous intersection of America’s two epidemics.


Links: Apple Podcasts, Spotify

Listening to podcasts:

There are many avenues through which you can listen to podcasts. Each podcast episode and series listed above is able to be accessed for free through the Podcasts app on your iOS device and Spotify on all devices. If you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast in order to receive updates when new episodes are posted!

Have other podcasts on this issue that you’d like to recommend? Let us know at