Russell Brand Goes off on Methadone Treatment

By Zachary Siegel 09/10/15

He says you might as well be doing dope.

Russell Brand

With his direct-to-press megaphone, actor and comedian Russell Brand’s opinions appear as Internet blitz. In his latest interview, he rails against methadone treatment, averring his sobriety by way of abstinence is the hands down better route to self-betterment.

"We might as well let people carry on taking drugs if they're going to be on methadone," Brand told the Observer. "Obviously it's painful to abstain, but at least it's hope-based."

This suggests methadone is a non-hope-based endeavor, whatever that means. Brand’s preference for abstinence in the quote above implies methadone is the easier, softer way. His notions of abstinence are laden with value judgments toward methadone, which implicitly asserts users of methadone are in no way working toward a better life.

Luckily, there is evidence that one is able ground their opinions in. In a 2006 review of methadone treatment, the use of oral methadone was shown to decrease illicit opiate use. Risky behavior related to injection practices also decreased along with reductions in criminal activity. Additionally, these reductions led to fewer cases of HIV in injection drug users.

A 1999 Canadian study compared a cohort of untreated opiate users to a group of opiate users on a methadone regiment. Differences with respect to illicit drug use, emergency room visits, illegal income generation, and socio-economic status were found between groups, the methadone group being better off.

Lastly, according to a Cochrane review: “Methadone is an effective maintenance therapy intervention for the treatment of heroin dependence as it retains patients in treatment and decreases heroin use better than treatments that do not utilize opioid replacement therapy.”

Brand, of course, has the right to his own opinions regarding recovery, as everyone’s path takes a different course. "When it comes to the disease of addiction, I'm no different from any other addict," he said

However, when it comes to treatment options he is very different. With a net worth of $15 million, he can enjoy the social perquisites of extended, notoriously expensive, long-term care. Whereas users trying to kick through methadone maintenance cannot afford lavish isolation from the harmful environments they’re too often thrown into.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.