A BBC Newsnight discussion between UK’s Parliamentary Drug Policy Reform leader Baroness Meacher, UK Journalist Peter Hitchens, and American actor and recovering addict Matthew Perry covered a range of topics related to addiction including how to treat, prevent, and legally address it, as well as whether it should be regarded as a disease or—as Hitchens argues—otherwise.
Prison vs Treatment
In short, Meacher contested that drug addiction needs to be understood and handled as a health problem rather than a crime, citing medical evidence of addiction as a complex disease in addition to naming countries, i.e. Portugal, that are successfully helping people and saving money by placing addicts in treatment rather than prison. Hitchens and Perry hotly debated the whether addiction is a disease better handled through treatment (per Perry’s suggestion) or an issue of willpower that requires stricter criminal justice in order to prevent people from beginning their drug use in the first place. There was no consensus after the 11 minute talk, though Meacher and Perry agreed that addiction is a complicated health issue better suited to legal intervention as opposed to punishment.
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