Drug-Addiction; to be treated as an illness, or the result of poor life choices?

With the recent revelations within the news concerning much loved chef, Nigella Lawson, and her casual drug-use, I have found myself reflecting upon the opinions towards drug-use and addiction within the United Kingdom. It’s something I have debated, discussed and researched quite a few times before, and have always came to the same concluding question – should it be treated it as a criminal offence, or as an addiction, something to be taken seriously and treated within hospitals nationwide?

Although it is recorded within the statistics Crime Survey for England and Wales 2011/12 that drug-use has been rapidly decreasing since an all-time high in 1996, it is still something I am aware of within today’s society – from advertising, to health-awareness posters, it seems that drugs are not only still something of a national problem, but are also worryingly easily accessible to people within the United Kingdom. Drug-culture has, arguably, taken something of a glamorous and ‘exclusive’ image upon itself, with pop idols such as Miley Cyrus receiving mass publicity for recently smoking cannabis on stage at the televised EMAs. From footballers to singers on the X Factor, many famous people, often role-models for younger generations, are being dragged through the media for involvement with often illegal and very dangerous substances.

Iron Man actor and millionaire Robert Downey Jr was once one of Hollywood’s most renowned drug-user, upheld as a laughing-stock for his addiction, despite winning Oscars throughout the ordeal. After being arrested multiple times for drink driving and for being in possession of absurd amount of illegal drugs, the actor appeared within court on drug charges and reportedly told the judge: “Taking drugs to me is like having a shotgun to my mouth with my finger on the trigger, and I like the taste of the gun mental.” It wasn’t until Downey Jr met his wife in 2005 that he agreed to take action against his addiction – he enrolled on a 12 step-programme, started therapy, “the martial art Wing Chun Kung Fu and described kicking his addictions as like coming out of a ‘20-year coma’. Now he says the strongest thing he consumes is espressos.”

However, not all drug-addicts have the accessible means for help, nor can they afford the treatment – not all drug addicts are Hollywood stars and those within the public eye. In 2012, there was an estimated 306,000 heroin and crack-users living in England, and very few services to help these people from the circumstances they found theirselves. One man who speaks very openly about his experiences with drug-addiction and has very recently hit the headlines for challenging Jeremy Paxman over the *arguably* terrible state of the current Government is Russell Brand. Brand, in an article which I will post at the end of this blog if anyone is interested, believes that “the mentality and behaviour of drug addicts… is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction.” He goes on to say that “unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”

Brand has set up the charity ‘Give It Up’, which hopes to evoke feelings of compassion in people’s perception of addiction, and provide funding for treatment centres where people can get clean and go on to retain contact with the support available to ensure they stay clean.

Although the latter is, undoubtedly, a positive step-forward in tackling drug addiction – surely a programme in place to help those suffering the living hell of addiction could only ever be viewed as constructive? This is most certainly not the case. With newspapers such as ‘the Telegraph’ stating that “addicts mug old ladies to pay for their habit” and that “they render themselves helpless through their vices, while expecting us to pick up the pieces,” will Russell Brand’s ‘Give It Up’ ever gain the support of the public? More importantly, should it gain the support of the public?

Should we regard drug-addicts as people suffering from an illness, or view them as people suffering from their own bad life decisions? The argument is meant for a podium much larger than this post, but with each new revelation of celebrities within the press being involved with drug-culture, is it ever going to be regarded as something seriously needing to be tackled, or rather a signifier of fame and glamour for the rich, and dirt and disorder for the average-addict?


Russell Brand article; http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2013/03/the-only-way-to-help-addicts-is-to-treat-them-as-sick-not-bad/

The Telegraph article; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3641382/Drug-addicts-do-not-deserve-our-indulgence.html


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Amy-Rose has now graduated from the University of Leicester.

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