Podcasts have become an audible window – an ingress which allows anyone to be able to listen and access interesting dialogue. This conversational window allows listeners to become positively engaged and to be a part of the many chats which are taking place. Given that so many of us are tuning in to podcasts, can this relatively new and unfiltered medium provide a raised platform for social movements?

Last year, actor and spoken word artist, Scroobius Pip, created the Distraction Pieces podcast. One year on and Pip has avid listeners in 80 different countries, and has had over two million downloads in 2016 alone. Pip has realised the potential for giving voices to those who need it and has produced episodes on the British Red Cross’ refugee week, the much downloaded Housing for Women special, and a war on drugs special. The success of the Distraction Pieces podcast is self-evident – so much so that Pip has now collated a book and is set for a mini tour. 

Virgin Unite, drug policy, war on drugs, LEAPUK, stop and search

Virgin Unite, drug policy, war on drugs, LEAPUK, stop and search

Owing to Pip’s ever growing podcasting voice, he’s expanded to create the Distraction Pieces Network on Acast. With podcasts including Tuesday Night Jaw, a devoted wrestling show, the network has now launched Say Why to Drugs with Dr Suzi Gage, and completing the line-up is Stop and Search in association with LEAP UK.

So what are we trying to do?

Over the last few weeks we’ve been producing Stop and Search podcasts by conducting live panel discussions. With an array of voices including policy experts, scientists, celebrity figures, and journalists, we aim to delve into every facet of drugs in society… we’re talking about drugs, and we’re not afraid to tell the truth. This is what the Stop and Search podcast is all about – making the ‘drug war’ a talking point. We aim to look at all of the social overlaps of our current drug laws, deconstruct the policies, and to try and talk ourselves into tangible reforms.

Virgin Unite, drug policy, war on drugs, LEAPUK, stop and search

The first episode of Stop and Search hit the iTunes chart’s top 40 and also entered the top 10 in the News and Politics section. The first show is about the ‘weird science’ of our drug laws and features comedian and broadcaster Robin Ince, Guardian science blogger, Dr Suzi Gage, and New Scientist columnist, Simon Oxenham.

The second episode of Stop and Search is all about Cannabis: The Grassroots Revolution. Along with our guests Norman Lamb MP, comedian Joe Wells, and film producer Dale Beaumont-Brown, we’ve tried to make the case for why we need cannabis regulation, but can we convince someone who’s cynical about reform? 

Virgin Unite, drug policy, war on drugs, LEAPUK, stop and search

Virgin Unite, drug policy, war on drugs, LEAPUK, stop and search

But it’s not all about the politics of our drug laws. The Distraction Pieces Network really made an impact when Dr Suzi Gage released Say Why to Drugs which climbed to number seven in the iTunes chart and topped the Science and Medicine chart. The thirst for accurate drug information is abundantly clear.

Dr Suzi Gage is drugs and mental health researcher and is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol investigating associations between substance use and mental health. Suzi is now podcasting about the empirical evidence on drugs and their effects. Drug science can often be hijacked in favour of making political points, but Dr Suzi Gage is cutting through the hyperbole and is simply giving a relaxed, no-nonsense, engaging, factual guide to each drug. From alcohol to cannabis, MDMA to tobacco, it’s time we had an honest look at how drugs work and their potential benefits and side-effects.

If we wish to minimise the potential harms for drugs then we simply have to ensure we have an open conversation. The Distraction Pieces Network aims to help that dialogue along, and hopefully enforce the basic principle of harm reduction. Please do download, subscribe, and get involved, and please do share on social media so we can all be part of this global conversation about drugs - which is in much need of honesty. 

Virgin Unite, drug policy, war on drugs, LEAPUK, stop and search

You can download and listen to the podcasts here:

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