Matthew Perry Spars with Peter Hitchens Over Addiction
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Matthew Perry, star of the hit sitcom Friends as well as a recovery alcoholic and drug addict, got into a heated discussion with British journalist Peter Hitchens about the effectiveness of drug courts and whether or not addiction is a disease.
The discussion started amiably enough with host Jeremy Paxman asking Perry about why drug courts work. Perry calmly pointed out how the rates of relapse are far less when someone goes through a drug court program rather than other forms of treatment, while citing his own four-year involvement as proof that they work. But the conversation took a turn when Hitchens decried the “fantasy of addiction,” and proceeded to mock the idea that people lose power over themselves and fall prey to the disease. Instead, he argued that a strong criminal justice system would be all that was needed to deter people from abusing drugs and alcohol in the first place.
When Hitchens asked what the objective evidence was that addiction was a disease, Perry responded, “My life is the objective evidence.” He went on to say that whenever he has a drink, he can’t stop. “It's an obsession of the mind and an allergy of the body,” Perry said. “For example, if I think about alcohol I cannot stop. It's about controlling that."
But Hitchens wasn't buying the argument. "People have problems with drugs and drink. People like taking them and don't want to stop. It doesn't mean they have a disease," he said. Perry went on to say that the American Medical Association classified addiction as a disease in the 1970s. “So all those doctors are wrong. But you’re right,” Perry said mockingly.
Hitchens was on the show to promote his book The War We Never Fought (2012), in which he argues that harsher and more strict punishment of both users and dealers is the only effective way to win the war on drugs. According to tweets from after the show, Perry and Hitchens left the studio by separate exits.