Russell Brand BBC Newsnight Heated debate on Drug Abstinence.

Most of you will have heard of Russell Brand, who’s private life is well published in Newspapers and across the general media. Russell, a comedian and television presenter, is these days better known for his life off screen and stage. Ever since it emerged that Russell was a reformed drug addict, the media have taken a great deal of interest in his private life.

From Addiction to Recovery

Russell makes no secret of the fact that he used to use Heroin, Cocaine, Cannabis and whatever else he could get his hands on, on a daily basis to escape himself. He admits that he loved drugs and the effect that they produced, but as a self- confessed addict, they inevitably ruined his life and left him empty and hopeless. Russell sought treatment for his addictions through an abstinence based 12 step treatment centre, several years ago, and now firmly believes that abstinence is the only way forward for addicts and alcoholics. He has subsequently filmed a documentary for BBC3 which will be shown this week, where he not only tells his own story of addiction and recovery, but challenges professionals advocating safer and reduced using. The documentary “Russell Brand from Addiction to Recovery” was supported by Addiction Helper, and we provided statistical evidence and information that supports Russell’s argument and call for the Government to follow abstinence based recovery.

Britain’s war on drugs

How to tackle Britain’s drug problem is a much debated topic. Generally those that have found recovery argue that abstinence is the way for ward, whilst professionals who have no personal addiction experience argue that it’s all about concentrating on successful outcomes, in respect of reduced crime rate, employment and less pull on NHS resources, regardless of whether the individual is still using or not. How to reduce drug using and crime is also another hot topic for debate, and this in particular was up for discussion on BBCs Newsnight last Friday evening.

Newsnight Debate

Joining in the Newsnight debate were Russell Brand (comedian and former drug addict) Chip Summers (Chief Executive of Focus 12 recovery), David Burrows (Conservative MP) and Peter Hitchens (Columnist) . Having watched the footage myself, I can confirm that this was defiantly a heated debate, valid points were made from both sides of the argument. Russell Brand called for abstinence based drug rehabilitation and more help and empathy for Britain’s problematic drug users whilst Columnist Peter Hitchens felt that tougher prison sentences would help to eradicate the problem. Peter argued that lenient prison sentences for class A related offences were at the route of so few addicts coming into recovery, and that a tougher punishment for breaking the law would serve as a deterrent and stop them recommitting crime. Chip Summers felt that addicts have little or no choice in their addiction, and that regardless of tougher punishments this would not resolve the problem.

Successful outcomes?

Currently in Britain there is an estimated 330,000 problem drug users, with 149,000 being maintained on methadone. The British Government see the number of individuals on methadone as somewhat of a success, given that they are not using Heroin any more, but is this the truth?. Many Heroin addicts that I have met who are on a Methadone program are prone to relapse or using on top of their daily medication. Russell brand argues how can they be successful at overcoming addiction when they have just been placed on a substitute drug, one that is cheap, easy to maintain and extremely addictive. I have to agree, how can recovery be considered going to the local chemist on a daily basis to collect your medication?, it’s still entrapment and Methadone is a powerful drug, let’s not forget that. How can anyone maintained on Methadone be expected to live a normal life. Yes its progress in that it reduces crime , and where addicts actually manage to stick to the maintenance regime and not use on top, there is reduced spread of blood borne viruses and over doses. It is effective harm minimisation. But in terms of recovery from addiction, it’s still feeding the addiction, all be it in a more controlled manor. Individuals who are maintained on methadone, find it very hard to come off of it, their feelings and emotions are still suppressed. Many suffer from depression and find it hard to maintain relationships and hold down jobs. Im not saying that there isn’t a place for Methadone, but there are no other drugs where an individual is given a substitute and maintained and as far as I can see the only reason that the Government supply this as an option is to reduce drug related crime and statistics and not because it is in the best interest of the individual.

Long term solution

Russell argues that whilst abstinence based recovery costs money in terms of rehab and psychosocial treatments, in the long term it saves money. I agree that there should be more funding for abstinence based programs made available. Addicts and alcoholics are seen as a drain on societies NHS resources and funding, it’s viewed as self-inflicted and a choice. Addiction is not a choice, it’s a painful mental illness as far as I’m concerned, some never recover from it and seek permanent solitude and oppression from their own mind in the form of alcohol or drugs, but for those that at least have had a taste of abstinence based recovery and the benefits it brings, most agree that’s where they want to be. But maintaining recovery is like maintaining addiction, its needs continuous feeding, but unless you want to join a self-help group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Cocaine Anonymous, there is little support for abstinence based recovery in the community, or in prison for that matter. Whilst abstinence based recovery means facing things head on, feeling emotions and dealing with some difficult thought patterns, there is nothing like the freedom it brings. To not be a slave to any drug, dealer, or chemist is frankly priceless. Individuals who stop using through psychosocial interventions and twelve step fellowships are generally an asset to society. They have the knowledge and experience to help and inspire others to follow the same path. I agree there does need to be more of a deterrent, but there also needs to be more of a solution and it has to start with a full detox from addictive substances, so that Psychological measures can be of maximum benefit.

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