Brand: Let's decriminalise drug addicts
3:20pm Wednesday 25th April 2012 in News
COMEDIAN Russell Brand believes drug addicts should be treated with “love and compassion” instead of being locked up.
The actor, who grew up in Grays, spoke before a parliamentary committee about his own experience as a heroin user – and said society should not “discard people or just write them off on methadone”.
During a 30-minute appearance, the Arthur star told the Home Affairs Select Committee he believed drugs should be decriminalised, with addiction treated as a potentially fatal illness instead.
Brand, once famous for his boozing and womanising, said: “I’m not a legal expert. I’m saying that, to a drug addict, the legal aspect is irrelevant. If you need to get drugs, you will.
“The criminal and legal status, I think, sends the wrong message. Being arrested isn’t a lesson, it’s just an administrative blip.”
Brand, who is now teetotal and wore a black hat, gold chains, crosses and a sleeveless black vest top to the hearing, said abstinence-based recovery for addicts would help “neutralise the toxic social threat they pose as criminals”.
The star, 36, who admitted being arrested more than a dozen times while he was an addict in his twenties, was giving evidence to MPs reviewing the Govern-ment’s drug laws and strategy.
Brand, who went to Grays School and later Palmer’s College, Grays, said he was not calling for a “wacky free-for-all” where “everyone goes around taking drugs”.
Instead, he said, addiction should be treated as an illness and society should recognise addicts, with proper help, can become active and useful.
In his 2007 autobiography, Brand spoke about his extensive use of drugs and how his “love” of heroin, in particular, had damaged his relationships, health and career.
He told MPs he began taking drugs as a result of a mental and psychological condition – comparing it to a “spiritual malady”, which was connected to excessive drinking.
His life changed when his career hit the big time and became a Hollywood star, however his much-publicised marriage to American pop star Katy Perry recently bit the dust.
The parliamentary session was the fourth the committee has held as part of what it intends to be a “comprehensive” study of the UK’s drugs policy.
Changes could eventually be made to the law as a result.