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.
PHOTOS: Celebrity rehab stories
Okay, maybe there is some order. Lindsay started crossing the line from a girl who was clearly acting out for the camera (not wearing underwear etc.) to someone who clearly needed help (cue famous photo of her passed out in a hoodie). Sad to say, despite innumerable stints in various facilities she still at the top of the list of celebrities most likely to end up back in rehab. Let's hope she finds one that sticks.
After her marriage to Kevin Federline (or FedEx as he immediately became known) Britney seemed to fall apart before our eyes. She too went the attention getting route of not wearing underwear, but it wasn't until she shaved her head and started driving to gas stations in the middle of the night that - for me at least - her story went from comedy to tragedy. Britney seems to have pulled her life back together, which is great news for her, and especially, her children.
He made us laugh on Seinfeld and then made us cringe with a racist tirade during a "comedy" act. Although he never checked into rehab (as far as I and Wikipedia know, though he did go on a spiritual journey, apparently), he was one of the celebrities that everyone expected to go to rehab. Call it "pulling a Mel Gibson", i.e. do something inappropriate and cover it up/apologize by attending rehab. A "Get out of publicity trouble" card that's starting to wear thin, if you ask me.
His racist tirade to a police officer was blamed on a drinking relapse, which was soon followed by a stint in rehab. Though I'm sure he suffers from the disease, AA wasn't able to rehab his career. There are some sins the public won't forgive.
Recent examples of a newer phenomenon: get caught cheating on your wife and go to rehab for sex addiction. Tiger seemed to take it seriously, but he fell so far from his pristine perch that it's likely going to take a bunch of wins at Augusta to erase the asterisk from his bio. Jesse James... well... he's gone back to being Jesse James.
An obvious inclusion that didn't inspire my book (I'd already written it by then), but did confirm my conclusion that if a celebrity's struggle with their addiction is conducted in public, the public can't help watching (or following his tweets). Until he started that UStream thing. I tuned out about two minutes into that. What's he been up to recently?
He became a celebrity because he wrote a book about rehab. Oh, and that Oprah thing. Anyway, true or not, A Million Little Pieces is one of the more compelling books I've ever read, and gave the world an inside look into what celebrities (and everyone else) go through once they go inside the front gates of a rehabilitation facility. If you haven't read it, you should.
This memoirist is more famous for the tales of his crazy childhood, captured in Running With Scissors, but I personally found his memoir of his battle with alcoholism, Dry, a more measured, insightful read. I saved this one until after I'd written Spin, but it reassured me that I'd (hopefully) gotten some of the details right. Photo by Wikimedia author David Shankbone
I don't watch this show (I swear!) but I still read enough "celebrity" news (sigh) to know that being cast on a reality show because you're kind of a train wreck isn't likely to make you less of a train wreck. Which brings me back to my original question: why don't journalist just follow celebrities into rehab? Because they shouldn't.
As I write this, Heather Locklear has been admitted to a hospital after an apparent drug/alcohol overdose. The story is the most-read on people.com (yeah, okay, I look at it sometimes). If the past is prologue, she'll be on her way to a rehab facility in the near future. And paparazzi will fan out searching for that perfect-this-is-how-she-looked-when-she-entered-rehab shot. The more things change...