Perpetually-grungy recent vegan Russell Brand has turned his life around in a number of ways. Aside from kicking addictions to liquor, heroin, and sex, he’s adopted a healthy, yoga-centric lifestyle that includes whole foods, exercise…and awesome outreach. Most recently, Brand testified on behalf of addicts before the British Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee regarding the UK’s drug policy. In his testimony, Brand noted that while addiction is a criminal problem, an emphasis on compassionate treatment could help clean up the streets.
In his testimony, Brand explained that the current system relies on punitive and “symbolic” approach–rather than a “pragmatic” one. That’s because, he stated, many addicts are suffering from much deeper emotional and psychological issues, which aren’t addressed by a night in the drunk tank or community service.
For me, taking drugs and excessive drinking were the result of a psychological, spiritual, or mental condition, so they’re symptomatic….once I dealt with the emotional, spiritual, mental impetus, I no longer felt the need to take drugs or use drugs.
Brand, who one MP noted was arrested “at least 12 times” when he was using, made it clear that addicts often participate in criminal activity, and that the victims of those crimes do deserve justice. But he also calls for total abstinence–which includes not providing methadone to addicts, which is often used in tandem with other illicit drugs. Methadone and non-abstinence-based recovery can lead to further criminal behavior, Brand explained, because even those users who are being legally given methadone haven’t really made a significant change.
In my experience speaking with people in the criminal justice, and from my own personal experience being arrested, there’s some confusion and ignorance around addiction, and it’s quite understandable. Because a lot of drug addicts–speaking personally–are anti-social. They are a strain on society. They necessarily engage in criminal activity. They’re a public nuisance, in many ways. I felt, when I was arrested, the police were doing the necessary job of enforcing the laws of this country, and they were doing what they had to do. But it wasn’t until I had access to abstinence-based recovery that I was able to change my behavior.
Three cheers for Russell Brand for not only getting clean and healthy, but for using his celebrity to speak up for those who often feel powerless and unable to defend themselves. Even if you don’t agree with his compassionate approach, you have to give the man credit for using his social sway to testify on behalf of those who are suffering.