Actor and comedian Russell Brand is not always taken seriously, but he had a very serious message for members of the British Parliament when he spoke about his history of addiction recently.
"It's more important that we regard people's suffering from addiction with compassion," Brand stated. "If you have the illness or disease of addiction or alcoholism, the best way to tackle it is not use drugs in any form whether it's state-sponsored opus like methadone or illegal street drugs."
"It wasn't until I had access to abstinence-based recovery that I was able to change my behavior and significantly reduce, all but obliterate my criminal activity, apart from the occasional skirmish," he added.
Brand himself is a recovering addict who struggled with heroin use and alcoholism. He has been sober for 10 years now, but before that was arrested 12 times. Brand now regularly attends Alcoholic and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. In his view, alcoholism and addiction should be treated as a disease.
"We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care," he posted on his website. "We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison. Criminalization doesn't even make economic sense."
Brand was a featured speaker at a gathering of the British government, which was exploring its current laws regarding drug use and the legality of substances. He is not alone in calling for addiction to be labeled and treated as a disease, rather than a crime.
"Stepping away from addiction," life coach Lisa Nkonoki told USA Today, "comes only after accepting that it's a disease. When you get this disease, you have to deal with it, manage it, emerge from it and move on."
Nkonoki has worked with Ray Charles Jr. and Bobby Brown to confront and address their addictions.