Russell Brand meets with Parliament to Discuss Addiction
From the War on Drugs, to the scientific advances in medical marijuana, the topic of substance abuse has evolved with modern civilization. It’s evolved as society comes to terms that drug and alcohol addiction is in fact a disease. Russell Brand advocates this fact and that it should be treated and addressed as a health issue.
Not only is substance abuse a riveting topic for policymakers and law enforcement, it also is a subject of research in the academic fields of cognitive psychology, medicine, biology, chemistry.
Unfortunately, societies across the globe continue to see this health issue as criminal behavior in which one has made a conscious decision to become a detriment to his/her own life, lacking moral compass. Very few focus on breaking the stigma that has survived the ages of time.
Russell Brand’s Movement for Change
Russell Brand is an actor and human rights activist from the UK who pursued abstinence-based recovery for his chemical dependence to drugs and alcohol. Brand was accompanied by Chip Somers during their committee with Parliament.
Somers is a therapist and addiction specialist in Harley Street and Cotswolds in England. He is also the founder of the treatment program where Russell Brand got clean. His role in the video was to reinforce Brand’s point with over 20 years of experience personally and professionally in the addiction field.
Familiar with the stigma associated with chemical dependency, Somers is determined to utilize his platform to address the perception of drug addiction to facilitate change in molding the minds of the masses. Russell Brand supports recovery through the use of evidence-based treatment methods and abstinence-based recovery as an effective solution over incarceration.
In 2012, he met with the UK’s Committee of Addiction to ignite a movement of change in regards to decriminalization of minor drug offenses, research funding for addiction and its treatment, effective methods for drug education, and the incompetence of outdated policies. In the video, he encourages policymakers and the public to adopt a more pragmatic approach to dealing with drug addiction.
According to Merriam-Webster, Pragmatism is defined as a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories. Currently, those who commit criminal acts to feed their addiction are incarcerated and often times refused the medical help they need.
For me it’s more important that we regard people suffering from addiction with compassion and that there’s a pragmatic rather than symbolic approach to treating it
Russell Brand does not view these methods as pragmatic and addressed the committee about decriminalizing drugs as opposed to legalizing them.
In a 2016 survey recently conducted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, there are more people incarcerated for drug offenses than any other crime, making up 46.6 percent of the prison population with 85,569 inmates.
The decriminalization process would involve treating addiction with evidence based treatment and effective substance abuse treatment programs to educate, treat, and rehabilitate the individual to be a productive member of society. He expresses his uncertainty about whether or not it would be smart to legalize these harmful substances.
“I don’t feel entirely qualified to talk about legislation. For me what’s more significant is the way that we socially regard the condition of addiction. It’s something that I consider to be an illness and therefore a health matter than a criminal or judicial matter,” Brand stated in his opening statements to Parliament.
So while he is aware that his knowledge of law is subpar by comparison to that of the elected officials, he is adamant that addiction should not be a matter that is put into the hands of law, rather medical professionals.
In the video, Brand argues that investing tax-payer dollars in law enforcement to prosecute and imprison people for drug related crimes is not as effective as funding research for addiction treatment and the development of treatment plans for those chemically dependent.
The legislation enacted in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, has proven to be inhuman and counter-productive because it treats drug addiction, which is a mental illness, as a crime by using incarceration.
Recidivism rates demonstrate the effectiveness of incarceration for drug based crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that about 76.7 percent of drug offenders go back to prison within 5 years of last conviction. This is not including the rate of those who are incarcerated for offenses that were a result of drug use such as property crimes.
This is not a viable solution that yields long-term results. Imprisonment is not a deterrent from drug use, in fact, the negative effects that being labeled a criminal has on the psyche perpetuate the behaviors.
Somers also suggests that there is a lot of money being spent on minor possession of drugs. Somers stated that “…there is a real argument for decriminalizing [drugs] so it gets treated like a health issue rather than a legal issue.”
By adopting a pragmatic approach to decriminalization as opposed to institutionalization, we can be more proactive in combatting the cycle of addiction and transition those who suffer into more productive member of society.
Importance of Drug Education
Russell Brand also comments on the current effectiveness of drug education for the youth of our society. Brand and Somers were not arguing to defund drug education, rather make it more efficient and factually consistent.
Resources for drug education in schools appear “out of touch with reality” and lack honest open-mindedness. Many times the information presented to the youth is regurgitating a command like “Just Say No” lacking depth and factual information that allows them the ability to make decision for themselves.
Psychology of Drug Addiction
Academic professionals primarily focus on cognitive functions that are altered as a result of ingesting chemicals found in street, prescription, or legal drugs. Psychology of addiction makes connections between altered brain chemistry and behavior. Drugs provide an increase in dopamine levels.
Dopamine is an organic chemical in the brain responsible for reward motivation. Drugs increase these levels in dopamine which offers the feeling of euphoria. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that plays a major role in learning and memory. When a person increases his/her level of dopamine, glutamate remembers this feeling, which is the beginning of developing an addiction.
Changes in the Brain, Effected in the Behavior
People who struggle with addiction have common traits and tendencies psychologically and behaviorally. A sense of detachment from others and low self-esteem are characteristic traits that are likely to plague the mental and emotional stability of addicts.
These are people that are often disinterested with not only the well-being of society but also their own, when they are trapped in the grips of addiction, although in reality individuals who suffer from addiction tend to be hypersensitive and emotional.
Many people use drugs to suppress these intense feelings. Active drug addiction and the actions accompanied, send these people into further self-loathing and isolation. When they are treated as criminals, those feelings are just reinforced and amplified.
It has been proven to be much more effective to provide treatment under the care of professionals that understand the nature of addiction and are able to complement the assets of a person and counteract the negative feelings of inferiority. “Being arrested isn’t a lesson, it’s just an administrative blip,” Brand said.
Treatment for the Disease
The treatment approach and abstinence-based recovery provides recovering addicts with long-term tools and solutions that can transition them back into a society within which they can be productive rather than detrimental.
Rehab, or drug rehabilitation, is a form of psychotherapeutic treatment for addiction to psychoactive substances. The overall purpose of rehab is to help the addicted persons cease the use and abuse of dangerous drugs that have been detriments to social life, employment, finances, physical, and psychological well-being.
Many rehabs also provide treatment for co-occurring disorders with medications for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or anxiety disorders. Treatment methods include expert counseling and developing proper communication with other people who have struggled with addiction. It is common in many rehabs to utilize more spiritual tools in order to assist those in need.
Abstinence-based recovery is a process in which the mind and body remain abstinent of psychoactive substances. Abstinence-based recovery is offered in several different varieties. There are twelve-step programs, SMART recovery, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
A twelve-step program is a substance abuse treatment method comprised of principles that are used to overcome specific issues such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and compulsive disorders. Commonly referred to as “the steps”, these guidelines were established by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1935 in Akron, Ohio.
Alcoholics Anonymous has been the foundation for other twelve-step programs such as Narcotics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Over-eaters Anonymous, and Gambling Anonymous. Twelve-step programs can now be found in over 132 countries across the world.
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a method used by individuals with the intent of maintaining abstinence from addictive behaviors. Like the twelve-step program, SMART recovery is non-profit and international. It utilizes scientific discovery and changes its approaches as science changes it findings.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) uses psychological methods to treat mental disorders such as depression and addiction. CBT refers to the incorporation of both cognitive and behavioral therapeutic methodology. Upon the understanding of the cognitive details of addiction, medical experts can then focus on the environmental and behavioral aspects to gain knowledge of how they are related.
Economics on the War on Drugs
Trillions of dollars have been aimed at attacking supply lines such as the Mexican drug cartels. But that is an extremely simplistic method to combat a complex problem. Basic supply and demand economics is based within the demand. There can be no supply if there is not a demand.
Furthermore, the weaker the demand, the weaker the supply. Fighting the supply while leaving a healthy demand only leaves opportunity for others to step in to fulfill the demands. Take out one drug supplier, another emerges because of the monetary incentive attached with the drug trade.
Drug treatment focuses on the demand by education and correct treatment methodology. The more people that are able to stay clean, the less amount of drugs are being desired; thus weakening the incentive of the suppliers. Again, you cannot fulfill a demand that is not present.
But drugs will always be in demand to some degree. The idea is not to completely eradicate addiction, for this is seemingly impossible. It is about progress not perfection. Over time, using the correct methods will establish societies where drugs are not nearly as prevalent. Although it is unlikely that the supply and demand will be completely abolished, policymakers and civilians alike can come together to weaken the threat.
In the following videos, Dr. Joshua Kane, lecturer at Arizona State University and Head of Research for A Better Today Recovery Services, illustrates the failures within the War on Drugs along with its causes and effects.
Let’s Join the Movement
Russell Brand and Somers’ message is that society as a whole must take on a more informed stance toward addiction rather than maintaining antiquated philosophies that are inherently incorrect. Bringing these ideas to Parliament was a good way to begin the process of enacting adequate solutions that can consequently shed light on the issue to the general public.
As a collective, we must embrace learning information that contradicts our prior beliefs. There is a stigma associated with addiction and it is fueled by the ignorance of the masses. As science advances our society toward bigger and better things, so must our perceptions of reality.
Again, addiction is a disease, not a crime, and it should be treated as such. There are humane, cost-effective, and logical solutions to a problem that has only gotten worse over time despite the overwhelming efforts to shut it down. It seems like an extremely elementary idea, but it is still far-fetched for many elected officials and their electorate.
In 2012, Russell Brand and Chip Somers met with the UK’s Committee of Addiction to ignite a movement of change in regards to the unhealthy perception of addiction and the steps that could be taken to make a societal transition toward more effective treatment.
Four years later, not much has been done to change this. Brand is still passionate in conveying his message across international lines. Approximately 23.2 million Americans are negatively affected by drug addiction according to the National Institute of Health. It is about time that the public has easy access to information regarding addiction so they may develop informed opinions that will bring a shift in legislation and the electorate as a whole.