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Comedian Russell Brand has said drug addiction should be treated as an illness and not seen as a criminal matter.

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The flamboyant star told MPs reviewing the government’s drugs strategy that he had beaten his own heroin addiction.

He called for more help and support for those with the “condition of addiction”.

Asked for his views on spending less money on the policing of possession offences, Brand said: “I think that’s a brilliant idea.

“Penalising people for possession of drugs is costly and expensive.

“A good number of times I was arrested was simply for possession and the administrative costs of that would be better spent, I think, on education and addressing the costs of treatment.

“I think that would be a very, very sensible use of those redirected funds.”

He went on: “I’m not a legal expert, but I’m saying that to a drug addict, the legal status is irrelevant. It is at best an inconvenience.

“If you need to get drugs because you’re a drug addict, you’re going to get drugs regardless of their legal status so the more money you waste in administering and controlling that ... I think there’s a futility to it.”

Saying he backed decriminalisation, he went on: “I think that there’s a degree of cowardice and wilful ignorance around this condition (of addiction).

“It’s something we increasingly need to handle compassionately and pragmatically.

“The criminal and legal status, I think sends the wrong message, but I wouldn’t start banging a drum to make drugs legal.

“I don’t take any drugs and I don’t drink because for me they’re bad.

“We need to recognise the distinction that certain people have a condition or a tendency that drugs and alcohol are going to ruin their lives. We need to identify those people and offer them the correct treatment.”

Brand said society was wrong to criminalise addiction and said it should be treated as a potentially fatal illness instead.

“My message is for people that have this condition of addiction. If you have the condition of addiction there is help available for you and I recommend abstinence-based recovery,” he said.

“I think some people can safely take drugs, I think they can.

“As long as it doesn’t turn them into criminals or harm their health then I don’t feel as if it’s any of my business.

“So I’m not here to do some, ‘just say no’ stuff.

“Let’s have an authoritative, truthful, honest debate and some funding for abstinence-based recovery.”

Do you agree with Russell Brand’s view that fewer resources should be spent on criminalising drug addicts and more on helping them overcome their problems? Add your views in the comments box below.

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