Russell Brand testifies about addiction in Parliament, argues for compassion

Russell Brand

Until recently, Russell Brand was famously married to pop-tart extraordinaire Katy Perry, but don’t hold that against him. Before that short-lived, ill-fated marriage, Russell has previously lived several lives of his own, and the most notorious incarnation that he continues to discuss to this date was the life of an addict. He has famously written about addiction (of the drug, alcohol, and sex varieties) not only in his two Booky Wook autobiographies but also in a very touching tribute to Amy Winehouse upon her untimely death last year. Now he has testified in front of Parliament, and we have received a few requests to cover this story even though (forgive us) it is a few days old by now.

At present, it is important to acknowledge how brave it is for Russell to step in front of lawmakers to discuss his former (and ongoing) struggles with addiction. However and as a celebrity, his analysis is somewhat skewed even though he claims to argue for the common man. Where Russell is concerned, addiction did not present so many legal problems as professional ones. For example, he was fired from MTV UK for showing up to work on 9/12/2001 while dressed up as Osama Bin Laden. Russell’s defense for his behavior has always been that he only thought it was an immensely good idea to do so because he was incredibly high on drugs and lacked coherent judgment. At this point, I do believe him.

Now Russell has gone before the UK Home Affairs Committee to present his testimony as part of a drugs policy inquiry at Portcullis House. Russell does not present any immediate answers to the question of how to ultimately handle addiction in a legal sense, but he emphatically stresses that the condition is a disease and that educating the public in this regard is paramount. Brand disagrees with the legalization of drugs because he believes that deterrence does indeed have an effect. He is an incredibly articulate and (dare I say) brilliant man, and he passionately spoke for a full 30 minutes minutes in front of Parliament — even pausing for a moment to address the MPs as “mate.” Here is a lengthy video of Russell’s testimony, and some excerpts follow:

“I don’t feel entirely qualified to talk about legislation. For me, what’s more significant is the way we socially regard the condition of addiction. It’s something that I consider to be an illness and therefore more of a health matter than more of a criminal or a judicial matter. I don’t think that legalization is something I’ve (as I’ve said) that I’m particularly qualified to get into. I can see areas in fact where decriminalization might be considered useful and more efficient in countries like Portugal or Switzerland, [where] it seems to have had some efficacy. But for me, it’s more important that we regard people suffering from addiction with compassion and that there’s a pragmatic rather than a symbolic approach to treating it. And I think that if the legislative state of addicts and the criminalization of addicts is kind of symbolic and not really functional, I don’t see how it especially helps. I’m not saying that we have a wacky free-for-all of people going around and doing drugs.

“I became a drug addict (I think) because of emotional difficulties, psychological difficulties, and perhaps a spiritual malady. For me, taking drugs and excessive drinking were the result of a psychological, spiritual, or mental condition, so they’re symptomatic. I was like sad. lonely, unhappy, detached. And drugs and alcohol for me seemed like a solution to that problem. Once I dealt with the emotional, spiritual, mental impetus, I no longer felt the need to take drugs or use drugs. I got clean actually at Chip Summers — his facility focuses on abstinence-based recovery; and that’s what we essentially believe in, is that if you have the disease or illness of addiction or alcoholism, the best way to tackle it is to not use drugs in any form — whether it’s state-sponsored opiates like methodone or illegal street drugs or a legal substance like alcohol. We see no distinction between these substances. What we believe in is that abstinence-based recovery is the best solution for recovery for people suffering from this condition.”

[From YouTube]

Russell further addressed the death of Amy Winehouse and urged Parliament that her death not stand “in vain” and should, instead, inspire new drug policies in the UK as a “force for change and good policy.” He further stated that “addicts will always be able to get drugs whether they are illegal or not.” Russell also added that putting addicts on methadone via social programs does not help but them but “leave[s] them on the sidelines” because “just to park people on methadone for four to seven years is criminal.” When pressed about the social responsibility of celebrities, Brand responded, “Who cares about bloody celebrities?” Of course, Russell agrees that not everyone will respond to abstinence-based recovery without the aid of methadone, but he adds that “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.” So what is the ultimate answer on how to deal with drug addicts in the UK (or elsewhere)? Nobody really knows, but at least Russell Brand is willing to speak out about his experiences and open up the dialogue for further discussion.

As to Russell’s dubious fashion sense? There’s no hope for recovery in that regard, mates. Especially since he showed up to Parliament wearing this outfit.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand

Photos of Russell Brand after testifying in front of Parliament courtesy of WENN

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67 Responses to “Russell Brand testifies about addiction in Parliament, argues for compassion”

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  1. fancyamazon says:

    I feel for him, and seems like he is doing his best to help the cause of compassion WRT addictions, but this is a very disrespectful outfit to wear to Parliament.

  2. Lol says:

    I really love Russell. Such an intelligent and articulate man. And funny as hell.

  3. Tapioca says:

    Well there’s two issues aren’t there?

    If you want to stay at home, get high and your actions effect absolutely no-one else, then drugs are fine. I have no problem with people killing themselves.

    However, if you burglarize some little old lady’s house to pay for your addiction then you should be locked in a cell with a bed, a bucket and a bottle of water and left to s**t all the poison out of your body until you’re clean. Then forced to do her gardening until full reparations are made. “Addiction” may be a disease I have some sympathy for but criminality sure as hell ain’t.

    • gee says:

      I kind of agree with you. Sometimes I think the disease is the ‘addictive gene.’ In order for an addict to get better, they must fix the root of the problem, not the symptoms only.

    • sluggo says:

      I also kind of agree with you, except that “If you want to stay at home, get high and your actions effect absolutely no-one else, then drugs are fine” is a very gray area. Thousands and thousands of people who struggle with addiction do so quietly, at home, but their actions definitely DO affect someone else: namely, family and friends. Being the spouse, parent, sibling, or child of someone with substance-abuse issues is hell. The addict may not be out there breaking into houses and coshing old ladies on the head for drug money, but it’s every bit as awful.

      Agree with Mr. Brand that the only way out is total abstinence. AA, for example, doesn’t say “Just do maintenance shots of booze until you wean yourself off.”

      I’m beginning to like this man more and more as time goes on, and I couldn’t stand him a year or two ag.

    • magslivs says:

      The crime there would be burglary, not being a drug addict. If you decriminalize the drugs then (a) would not have the need (perhaps) to do such things and (b) anyone–drug addict or not–who is guilty of burglary would be criminally charged.
      sorry to be rational and all

      • Julie says:

        they do crimes to get money to pay for drugs. that has nothing to do with drugs being legal or not. even if they were legal they would still need the money to pay for them. so they would still steal.

        or should we hand out herion for 5$ or for free paid by taxes?

      • Alita says:

        Yes, yes, illegal lock people up. BUT since it is a fact that people still take drugs and get hooked on heroin, then maybe it’s time to consider another option if you’ll take those blinkers off.

        - assuming education etc hasn’t worked and, darn, we have an addict

        - we provide real-cost drugs for sale under prescription (heroin is extremely cheap to make, less than asprin)

        - gets the addict away from the dealers

        - allows they (and loved ones) to rebuild a life

        - stabilise and get a job, hopefully one day get off drugs

        - stops those that steal for a habit doing so

        - stops the massive drug cartels, gangs and attendant violence

        This is why people (not including R Brand) advocate a different approach.

        Or we can just keep going down the winning path we’re on now .. !

  4. Launicaangelina says:

    I’m so appreciative of his efforts to highlight this issue. It’s even better that he’s well spoken and passionate. The disease of addiction is a complex one. It’s easy to be angry at addicts. I’ve spent several years being angry because of the many addicts in my family. Now I work at a substance abuse prevention and treatment facility and have the pleasure of working with many people in recovery. They prove that this disease can be successfully treated. The public will see people like Lohan and write the “crackie” off. There are multiple factors at play: her disease, her sense of entitlement, her enablers, her money and much more. I’m happy that Russell Brand is being vocal.

  5. teehee says:

    I am happy that someone took the time to say what I think, which is that legalizing isnt the true issue. I guess it takes 30 minutes of speech rather than a few lines of comments to make the better point LOL
    I hope lots of people listen to him and reconsider their blind ‘legalize’ chanting and think before calling me an idiot for not agreeing with the masses about it.

  6. flourpot says:

    Russel has always been eloquent, well spoken. His brand of comedy needs it to lead up to the punchline, so to speak.

    I find nothing disrespectful about his outfit. So he went to parliment, big deal. None of his manbits were showing and really, that’s the thing that you’re supposed to cover up these days.

    Dress codes baffle me. I get the no shirt no shoes but have to wear a tie? Have to wear a business suit? Have to cover your skin if you’re visiting the vatican? What a joke. We have more important things to worry about than making a ‘good’ impression on some stuffy conservatives by way of fabric.

    • gg says:

      I agree – however, there aren’t any hipsters in Parliament or Congress, and if you want people to listen to your words, you don’t want them distracted by wondering why in hell you put your t-shirt through a blender and then put it on and came to argue before Parliament. To be a good communicator, you have to put yourself in the listeners’ shoes and use angles that they can relate to, including your own appearance.

    • lauren says:

      I have gained a new respect for RB. His clothes are not conventional, but Russell is wise and articulate. Did he divorce KP because of her lifestyle, which was not supportive of R’s sobriety? Katy will never have a man like Russell again. Foolish woman.

  7. mln76 says:

    Brilliant man. But couldn’t he have worn a shirt without holes in it before Parliment.

    • Veruca says:

      Right. It is bloody Parliament, after all (which I’ll be in view of in 4 months!! Woo hoo!).

      Love the Brand. We need more like him in the world. Yes, he’s flawed (who isn’t) but his compassion & articulation is so rare these days, it feels like a gift.

  8. Melanie says:

    Brand is very articulate and even though I admire him for his courageous behavior and his willingness to own his past addictions I am left wondering where is the sense of personal responsibility? No one holds a gun to your head and forces you to do drugs.

    • Linney says:

      That only takes you as far as your first hit, though. One can claim responsibility for that until the cows come home but with addicts, it always gets to the point where your body needs the drugs. There is no personal control or responsibility once that point is hit. Once you’re an addict, it’s a disease and just like any other disease, you cannot manipulate it to your whim. Brand is outlining the problem quite quite well here in that he points out the error of society in thinking people choose to be addicts. Honestly, by owning that you took the first hit, what does it accomplish? What does taking responsibility do? It certainly doesn’t cure the disease.

    • launicaangelina says:

      I was one of those who emailed the Celebitchy staff and included the portion below in my email:

      “According to, although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge a person’s self control and ability to resist intense impulses urging them to take drugs.

      I also want to state, as with any other disease, treatment is available and it is up to the individual to maintain their recovery. Those in treatment are always reminded that the world is the same but they have to live differently now.”

    • dedede says:

      I don’t get that attitude. What about if you get a sexually transmitted disease? What about eating disorders? Self-harm? Auto-immune disease. Anxiety disorders? Chronic pain from an injury that someone thinks you caused yourself? What if you give birth to a child knowing that you carry a genetic disorder they might get? Whatever, these are all things people get because it’s their fault according to some people. And some of these problems actually lead to self medicating with illegal drugs. Who cares whose fault something is. Who are you to say it’s someone’s fault? You don’t know them.

      Brand just stated that putting more funds into sober programs and making them more available to people instead of clogging the system with petty possession charges would be helpful and might save some lives.

      • Melanie says:

        I’m sorry but your point is not the same as CHOOSING illegal drugs. Are you kidding me? Of course addicts deserve our sympathy. So I guess Octo-mom deserves are sympathy because she suffers from narcissistic personality disorder? Because I clearly did not see sympathetic comments on that thread.

  9. Agnes says:

    it’s good that he’s articulate about his struggles and willing to talk about them publicly. but, for f*ck’s sake, if you are going to testify before legislative body, do take some care in the way you dress. “no holes” would have been a good start. his outfit shouldn’t distract from his message.

    • Monkey Jim says:

      Of course. Better to look the part and talk shit, like most of our MPs in the UK’s (coalition, non majority) government than look like shit and talk total sense? Whatever.

      • Alaina says:

        Thank you, Monkey Jim, for telling it like it is. I watched this on the day it aired and didn’t even notice what Russell was wearing. Why? Because I was too busy listening to what he had to say. Kudos to him not just for his commitment to his own sobriety but for the compassionate and articulate advocate he has become not just for the work of Focus (where he received his treatment) but for addicts everywhere. And for the record, Russell is just voicing what experts in the addiction field have been trying to impress upon government for at least the past decade.

      • Agnes says:

        no… that wasn’t my point at all. while we, the regular people, might not mind what he’s wearing, the parliament (or the senate) is a more formal setting where one should dress more formally. of course, dressing formally does not give one the right to “talk shit”, clearly, that’s some sort of a red herring argument you have going there.

    • Ravensdaughter says:

      Thanks Agnes-I couldn’t have said it better myself. We think the US Senate is uptight–think of how many PM’s wrote him off because he was dressed like-well-Russell Brand. It’s a shame, too, because he can be very articulate (haven’t listened to the video yet, but I’m looking forward to it..), and this is something he is very passionate about.
      PS: I still miss Amy….

  10. G says:

    Good for him. Another check mark in the good books.

  11. skipper says:

    Usually I’m grossed out by dirty hippie types but I would totally do him. Maybe because he’s a British dirty hippie which is also odd because I don’t usually go for British guys either. Not that I’ve really had the option for either :(

  12. anniecc says:

    He wasn’t actually speaking to Parliament but to a Select Committee (small group of MPs from different political parties). They hold inquiries into particular issues (in this case drug policy) and make recommendations to the Government. I’m not sure what the equivalent is in the US system.

  13. Embee says:

    “I became a drug addict (I think) because of emotional difficulties, psychological difficulties, and perhaps a spiritual malady.”

    Amen, brother. Treat the underlying pain and the need for anaesthetics goes away.

  14. Gene Parmesan says:

    I’m starting to believe that maybe he did divorce Katy for her partying ways. He seems very committed to his sobriety. And shame on her if she didn’t respect that, i wish she would grow up. Russell makes me LOL, he is so unapologetic about who he is and his sense of style

    • meeee says:

      Um, I’m still unsure about that whole marriage bring legit. I think it was a contract marriage that became a real marriage and Russell wanted a baby and she was like no way. It’s no secret what Katy is up to and who her closest friends are. It might be true that Russell though he could handle it all and then found his sober lifestyle was difficult to maintain with a boozy ditzy wife and probably started to feel bad about himself and inauthentic. Whatever, good for him. If he wants a marriage he should find someone that shares his opinions and understands him. Katy is a fake bimbo. He’s nuts, but he’d be fine if he finds the right relationship. Maybe in a couple years. Marrying Katy showed he’s still not ready yet. More likely though their contract ran out because they were both violating the agreement, especially Katy with her conspicuous lifestyle. It was killing his career.

      • Really? says:

        They did it for their careers. I find him irritating in general and she has the same effect for me. They were perfect for each other until they started irritating each other. I can imagine how annoying she would be on coke. My guess is they were partying together it started to get old for him and he left. I think he still does some drugs on occassion.

  15. marie says:

    My mom is a meth addict. I was raised by my aunt and uncle while always hoping my mom would get clean and to this day she will be clean for a few months then get back on it. I went two years without talking to her because of it. She is off it at the moment according to her best friend but I sadly don’t think it will last. She has admitted having depression her entire life so if its not meth she self medicates with alcohol. I wish the US had the death penalty for drug dealers/ makers because they really destroy lives. Meth is the worst drug of them all.

    • Embee says:

      I am so, so sorry for you and your mother. The pain drugs cause is just unimaginable to people who haven’t lived with an addict. I was married to an amphetamine addict and we even had a child together (before he went off the rails…in fact, the responsibilities of impending parenthood is what sent him to the drugs). He is like a dark cloud over our lives, and the only relief comes when he is gone. I understand what you are dealing with and you have my utmost sympathy.

      • DreamyK says:

        Same here. 10 long years of pain, sorrow, worry and broken promises. I loved him but I divorced him because I couldn’t stand to watch him kill himself slowly anymore. He’s still alive, says he’s sober but he’s still just as high, only this time with a doctors blessing. What a joke.

        It’s funny how everyone is all concerned about the addict but not the 10+ people every addict affects negatively because of their behavior. That’s who I save my compassion for, the family members and friends. I’d like Russell to address that.

      • Melanie says:

        I agree 100%. Loved ones truly suffer watching a loved one destroy themselves.

      • Alita says:

        But @Melanie (writing to you because I read a bunch of your comments here), if you agree with the sympathy for the family even if not the addict themself, then surely it doesn’t matter what helps to get things better? Even if it were legalisation or subsidised detox or .. Anything? Because getting the addict right will help the family (or whoever is close to them) as well as the society they harm through supporting criminal activity (I mean dealers), not contributing by working and so on.

        When we’re talking policy level, there needs to be a decision – are we going to be punitive because it’s the addict’s fault they’re where they are .. or are we collectively going to acknowledge that we are where we are and do what it takes to minimise personal, community and societal harm.

        To all those (including me) that have had lives disrupted by addict’s behaviour – my thoughts are with you.

  16. says:

    I’m not surprised that he’s well spoken. I mean I’ve seen his comedy for years and he is quite intelligent. However, damn, he could have at least dressed the part. I don’t know if he was being tongue in cheek or what but he didn’t need to show up like he just rolled out of the gutter after coming off a 4 day bender.

    A modicum of respect would have been nice (even if they are just politicans). I’m also really surprised he was allowed in. Here in the States we have dress code for most, if not all government buildings.

  17. hunter says:

    Wow, I watched the whole video and he is absolutely brilliant and more eloquent than 99% of all people.

    No wonder it didn’t work out with Katy.

  18. ??? says:

    Hypocrite. How can you talk about getting over addiction when in every picture you take you are twacked out of your gourd? What a base head! It’s like Gia and the ad she did against drugs, while she was high as a kite. Uhm….no.

  19. Carlotta Love says:

    Thank God (or whomever) for people like Russell Brand. Who cares what he wears? If the MPs can’t listen to a person without being distracted by their choice of clothing, they hardly deserve the job. As I understand it, they represent ALL people, not just those who dress as they deem appropriate. Get over the superficial and consider what really matters. People’s lives are at stake. The sooner people understand what drives addiction (the emotional, spiritual maladies Brand mentioned) the better off we’ll all be, as individuals and as a society.

  20. Alexa says:

    I guess I need some salt peter (or whatever it is that can help a lusting female) because I couldn’t stop to read this article either. Just – DAMN! He’s looking like something I need in my bed right now! YUM!

  21. Stubbylove says:

    Way to go Russ! Love it.

  22. Jayna says:

    I love him and he has really evolved and has great insight to offer. I heard his book is great.

  23. Bette says:

    Regarding the way he dressed – not only does Russell believe in individuality, but he also believes in finding little ways to wake people up, doing things that are outside of the “prescriptive existence” that most people live in. He likes to twinkle and flirt and be authentic in every single moment, whether with members of parliament or a stranger on the street. So it wasn’t laziness that led him to not “dress the part” when presenting to the committee – I’m sure it was a deliberate part of his personal ethos. But it’s not disrespect, either – it’s just him being himself.

    • jamie says:

      I am all for individualism and being true to yourself. The truth is if he was just a regular person and he was asked to speak in front of parliament he would have dressed in a more formal looking way. When you are an average citizen you need to look the part in order to be taken seriously or respected. He is famous he can show up in whatever he likes.

  24. mimi says:

    If Parliament members were actually serious about how to handle addiction, they would not invite a famous D-bag to testify and tell them if that is a disease and how to handle that.

    They should have listened to professionals who care for addicts and hear what works and what does not, backed with numbers and studies.

    This guy, I suspect, was long before and after, a D bag.
    I don’t think it has to do with addiction, but just his personality and how he belittles and disrespects other people, especially women.

    • Just Wondering says:

      Mimi–calm urself girl. Actually Russell was there with the man who runs Focus 12, a charity abstinence-based recovery center in north London. If he’s not an expert I don’t know who is. He spoke also. Consider making comments when you have the full information.

  25. sandra says:

    He has really nice skin. Beautiful complexion so he must be keeping healthy and clean.

  26. aud says:

    man, i would hit that so hard and i have no idea why

    he just seems like he would be one of the best you ever have

  27. Just Wondering says:

    Melanie said: “I am left wondering where is the sense of personal responsibility? No one holds a gun to your head and forces you to do drugs.”

    I think participating in abstinence programs are an addicts chance to take responsibility for their actions by joining them. Brand argues that they be made more readily available. Your argument that they are not taking responsibility really just shows that you just want to write off people that have made a poor choice as being irresponsible. A lot of people make poor choices, but if people aren’t willing to give them a second chance then I wouldn’t want to live in your version of society. You’re pretty naive about why drugs are illegal in the first place. Most people are addicted to alcohol. if we brought back prohibition, I’d like to see you attitude then.