Brand attacks use of methadone24/04/2012 - 14:54:48
Drug addicts should not be put on methadone for years at a time, written off and left on the sidelines of society, Russell Brand has said.
The flamboyant film star and comedian also called for possession of drugs to be decriminalised.
Addiction should not be criminalised, he said, but should be treated as a potentially fatal illness instead.
Abstinence-based recovery for addicts would help “neutralise the toxic social threat they pose as criminals”, he said.
Society should not just “discard people, write them off on methadone and leave them on the sidelines”, he added.
Brand also said he would back decriminalisation of possession of drugs, adding that there was “a degree of cowardice and wilful ignorance around this condition”.
He 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.”
He added that he was not telling people not to take drugs if it was causing no harm but said he wanted to see more funding for abstinence-based recovery.
Brand said he became addicted to drugs because of emotional and psychological difficulties, adding “it was rough”.
The star, who said he had beaten a heroin addiction which saw him arrested a dozen times, was giving evidence to MPs reviewing the Government’s drugs strategy.
Brand, who arrived at the hearing wearing a black hat, gold chains and crosses and a torn black vest top, said he was not calling for “a free-for-all where everyone goes around taking drugs”.
Instead, he said addiction should be treated as an illness and society should recognise that addicts, with the proper help, can become active and useful members.
Asked if there should be a carrot-and-stick approach, he said it should be more about “love and compassion”.
Speaking rapidly and addressing committee members by their first names, Brand dismissed suggestions that addicts cared where their drugs came from or the consequences of their production.
“I don’t think they’re going to be affected by that because they’re normally on drugs,” he said.
Asked about the role of celebrities, he said: “Who cares about bloody celebrities?”
Brand said that, instead, he wanted to offer people “truth and authenticity”.
During the lively and energetic 30-minute hearing, Brand also addressed MPs as “mate” and, when pushed for time by chairman Keith Vaz, replied: “Time is infinite. We can’t run out of time. Who’s next? Theresa May? She may not turn up. Ask her if she knows what day it is.”
Members of the public packed the hearing room to hear Brand’s evidence.
When Labour MP David Winnick told Brand the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee was not a variety show, Brand replied: “You’re providing a little bit of variety though, making it more like Dad’s Army.”
Chip Somers, chief executive of the detox centre Focus 12 where Brand sought help with drug dependency, said: “Just to park people on methadone for four to seven years is criminal.”
Abstinence was an “admirable aim for everybody”, he said, but he admitted that not everyone would achieve it.
“I don’t think methadone is a good thing.”
He added he thought many methadone users were also using other drugs.
Both Brand and Mr Somers said the number of people criminalised for possession should be reduced.
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