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On Tuesday, Russell Brand appeared before a parliamentary committee on Home Affairs to discuss the ramifications of arresting and imprisoning drug addicts. An addict himself, Brand sought to offer insight into the world of addiction recovery through his personal experience as a heroin (and other drugs) user. It is a quick but powerful clip from the hearing that only barely scratches the surface of the issue at hand.
Russell Brand catches a lot of flack for his persona. The hair, the clothes, the chains; they all project an image of apathy and ego. However, that could not be further from the truth. He is, as shown in the video, an i intelligent and eloquent public speaker (when he stays on topic). Brand is passionate about treating addiction as an illness, rather than a crime, and his statements hit the nail on the head.
Drug addiction is very difficult to understand if you've never experienced it personally, either through your own usage or someone close to you; I am part of the latter. The depths of addiction are dark and twisted, comparable to a never-ending maze of hedges raised high above your head. The light is there above you, but everything is blocked from your sight. While addicts, at one point, make a choice to use, their actual addiction becomes an illness as their body and mind depend on the drugs to function. Once that mindset settles in, the downward spiral is inevitable and becomes incredibly difficult to stop with every passing day.
Brand's position of treating addicts with love and compassion, instead of punishment, is a significant aspect of addiction recovery. Slapping a user on the wrist and punishing them does nothing to better their lives, rather it drives them further down the path into addiction until recovery becomes a lost cause. Through compassion and understanding, we can help addicts abstain from using and remain clean. The U.S. already spends too much money on our prison system, jailing low-level users for minor offenses such as possession. Our tax dollars could be put to better use by providing adequate recovery programs and facilities that better society through rehabilitation, rather than lengthy and fruitless imprisonment.
Though a comedian by trade, Brand's proposal is some serious food for thought. It's good to see such a rational take on rehabilitation in a public forum, regardless of where it's being said. What he believes rings universally true; recovery is most easily achieved through compassion. It's necessary, it's beneficial, it's sensible. Hopefully his stance can catch some fire here in the States as well.
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