Russell Brand Stands Up for Drug Addicts
Russell Brand is leading an addiction revolution – changing the way drug addicts are treated around the world.
11 years ago, outspoken comedian and actor Russell Brand was addicted to heroin, his career was basically non-existent, and doctors told him that he probably wouldn’t be alive for more than six months.
Since then, Brand has gotten clean, made a successful career for himself, and constantly makes headlines around the world with his forthcoming attitude towards politics and the treatment of drug addicts.
Russell Brand’s Views on Drug Addiction Treatment
“For me what’s more significant is the way in which we socially regard the condition of addiction. It is an illness and therefore more a health matter than a criminal or judicial matter.” – Russell Brand
In 2012, Brand joined the British Home Affairs Committee for a discussion of Britain’s drug policy where the topics of drug legislation and treatment were discussed. Upon being asked about whether or not drugs should be decriminalised, Brand stated:
“Decriminalisation of drugs seems to be useful and efficient in places where they have done trials (such as Portugal)… but more importantly we need to regard people suffering from addiction with compassion and that there’s a pragmatic rather than symbolic approach to treating it. And I think that the legislative status of addiction and the criminalisation of drug addicts is kind of symbolic and not really functional.”
In other words, Brand is striving to a) remove the stigma surrounding drug addicts and b) push legislation towards decriminalisation – and to give all addicts the opportunity for recovery instead of incarceration. After all, addiction is a disease and should be treated as one.
Understanding Addiction as a Disease
“…the mentality and behaviour of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and, unless they have structured help, they have no hope.” – Russell Brand
Being filmed for a documentary, Addiction to Recovery, Brand sat in a 5-star hotel watching a younger version of himself smoke dope. The film was from the height of his addiction, and he had not watched the video since the day it was made. With success, money and happiness now his reality, Brand admits feeling jealous of the young man he saw in the video, because despite everything else – he had drugs.
Although a completely irrational thought, that is how it is for drug addicts – they have a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes them always want to choose drugs over every thing else – even after years of being sober. That, says Brand, is why addiction needs to lose the stigma. That, he says, is why drugs should be decriminalised and regulated, and drug addicts need proper care for recovery.
Brand Pushes for Abstinence-Based Recovery and Decriminalisation
“The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday…” – Russell Brand
According to Brand, abstinence-based recovery is the only way to go. Many countries offer harm-reduction facilities, where methadone is given out daily to drug addicts, but Brand disagrees with this treatment. Handing out methadone each day for years simply means that you are switching their addiction, instead of offering a chance at recovery.
After years of sobriety, watching himself smoke up was very difficult – it made him want to use again despite all the negative effects he knew would follow. Thankfully, however, Brand was involved in a very intense recovery programme, and continues to work on his recovery and sobriety each and every day. For millions of drug addicts around the world, however, they do not have the money or resources to get treatment. And in fact, many face criminal charges for possession and get thrown in jail. Unfortunately, this does not help drug addicts in the long run, because they are not taught coping mechanisms and behaviours to deal with their addiction, and thus relapse as soon as they are out of jail (that is, if they haven’t found a way to use in jail).
This vicious cycle of criminal charges and addiction actually costs governments around the world far more money than if they focused on getting drug addicts proper care and treatment instead of sending them to jail.
Portugal Drug Decriminalisation: Why it Works
“How do you organise it so that people who are going to take drugs no matter what, are handled in the best possible way?” – Russell Brand
It is Brand’s belief that there will never be a world that is free of drugs. That no matter how hard the governments try to enforce laws against drug use – they will never succeed in a drug-free world. And in that sense, Brand believes that drugs should be decriminalised and regulated – that drugs should be of medical grade, and those caught using or those facing addiction should be medically treated.
In 2001, Portugal made it legal for citizens to carry up to approximately a 10-day supply of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and any other drug without legal penalisation. As well, they made addiction a medical issue instead of judicial, offering more options for treatment.
Now 12 years later, the cost-analysis is still being measured, but Portugal’s government can attest to a decrease in new HIV cases amongst drug addicts, and an increase in drug addicts who have gone into rehab. As well, the total number of adults who have tried drugs has increased, but the number of teenagers who have taken drugs illegally is falling dramatically. So, even though the jury is still technically out, there seem to be many benefits to decriminalisation.
Aiding Others Through Comic Relief
Until the world unites as one, Brand is doing everything he can to revolutionise the way drug addiction is viewed and treated. From live appearances on talk shows, political meetings, and his controversial online news show ‘The Trews’, Brand is doing everything he can to change drug policies around the world. In fact, he teamed up with MP Caroline Lucas, a member of the British Brighton Pavilion, and together they tallied up the 100,000 votes needed to bring the drug legislation debate before parliament.
And while he is doing that, Brand is also part of the fund ‘Give It Up‘, which strives to give as many addicts as possible the opportunity for recovery based on abstinence, while reducing the stigmas surrounding this mental illness.
So… whether you like or hate him (let’s admit it, he can be quite loud and obnoxious when he wants to be…) he is definitely standing up for the rights of drug addicts everywhere, and leading the world in an addiction revolution. Hats off to you, Brand! Cheers!