Appearing in Parliament last Tuesday, renowned comedian and former heroin addict Russell Brand called for a pragmatic and compassionate approach towards dealing with drug use in the UK.
Having battled addictions with heroin, alcohol and other substances over the past decade, Brand advocated an “abstinence based” approach to the cycle of drug use that he regards as an “illness”. Appearing to a board of MPs alongside Chip Somers, Chief Executive of Focus 12, a charity that provides rehabilitation for substance abusers, Brand promoted a refocused attitude of “love” towards those suffering addiction.
He stated that this approach does not require “airy fairy liberalism” to addiction, but “truth and authenticity” to each individual. Brand clarifies from his own harmful experiences, that what is required is a change in “the way we socially regard the condition of addiction” through genuine, constructive support.
Brand, who became a patron for Focus 12 in 2005 following his recovery, claims his own mental and “spiritual malady” resulted in escapism sought in drugs and alcohol and subsequent “rough” years under the penal procedures. From his experience Brand stressed that like psychological conditions, addiction should be treated as a health matter, avoiding ostracising drug addiction as a “social toxic”.
Brand advocated that through implementing a pragmatic approach, time and money for both the user and the government could be better spent in providing “truth and authenticity” for struggling addicts rather than trying, and failing, to “teach them a lesson” through the current judicial procedure.
Although the former addict felt he was not qualified to pass comment on the legalisation of criminal substances, Brand expressed that in light of current legislation he felt “the legal status [of a drug] for an addict is irrelevant”. Somers, later speaking to the MPs, recognised that legalisation is not necessarily what is in question here, but decriminalisation. The focus should be towards the illness, rather than the criminality, which refuses to tackle the root causes that lead to harmful drug abuse.
Peter Hitchens, a journalist, has also spoken out in Parliament, saying that a more “hard-line policy” should be taken to tackle the rise in drug users, because of lax legislation in the UK. The inquiry continues.