On Tuesday, comedian and actor Russell Brand testified before a parliamentary committee reviewing U.K. drug policy to call for more "compassionate" action toward drug addicts.
"By regarding addiction as an illness, by offering treatment instead of a more punitive approach, we can prevent people from committing crimes," Brand told members of Parliament, before opening up about his own struggles with heroin addiction. "Personally, I was a criminal when I was a drug addict by virtue of my addiction and the ways that I had to acquire money to get drugs."
According to The Guardian, Brand testified to advocate for treating drug addiction as a health and social welfare issue rather than as a criminal one. Despite cracking a few jokes, Brand was serious in his plea. "I think there needs to be love and compassion for everybody involved," said Brand. "If people are committing criminal behavior, then it needs to be dealt with legally, but you need to offer them treatment."
When asked if he saw himself as a role model for today's youth, Brand quoted the late rapper Tupac Shakur. "As the great Tupac Shakur said, 'Role is something people play, model is something that people make, both of those things are fake.'"
Brand has been open about his battle to overcome drug addiction in the past and has said society needs to change the way it views addicts.
After the death of singer Amy Winehouse in July, Brand wrote a passionate blog post on his website to not only honor his late friend but also to advocate for treatment, claiming that drug addiction should be treated like a potentially fatal illness.
"Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death," he wrote. "All we can do is adapt the way we view [addiction], not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill."
Brand, who is now eight years sober, attends AA meetings three times a week in order to keep his addiction in check.
"To me, the gravity is heroin, and then death. You know, to sleep," he told Details magazine last May, "that incremental suicide of turning your life into a dream, to make being awake as similar to sleep as possible. Drowsily, lazily, dry-mouth your way through the day's ceremonies, fumble your way back into the dew-bather you never really left, draped in brown, brown now all around, the haze!"
Watch more of Brand's passionate parliamentary testimony below.
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