Russell Brand quoted slain rapper Tupac Shakur as he testified about his past substance abuse at a recent UK parliamentary committee session for a drugs policy inquiry and urged lawmakers to treat addiction as a disease and for those who suffer from it to be regarded with "love and compassion."
The 36-year-old British comedian and actor, who stars in films such as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Rock of Ages," is a former heroin addict who also battled alcoholism. He wants the government to approve more funding for treatment programs to help rehabilitate addicts who are arrested.
Brand, known for his rock star look, arrived at the Home Affairs Committee's session wearing a multi-strand golden necklace with crosses, a black tank top that showed off his tattoos, black jeans and a black hat, which he removed before sitting down. Brand has been sober for about 10 years and is developing a documentary about addiction. He was asked during the committee's session if he thought he made a good role model.
"As the great Tupac Shakur said, role is something people play. Model is something that people make. Both of those things are fake." he said at the session, which took place on Tuesday. "What I want to offer people is truth and authenticity in the treatment of this illness, in our regard to the criminal components of it, in assisting victims and in the way we legislate and organize our society."
Shakur was shot dead at age 25 in 1996. In his single "Ghetto Gospel," which was released eight years after his death: "I refuse to be a role model / I set goals, take control, drink out my own bottles."
The rapper told MTV News in 1992, when asked about the song: "If I let somebody put the role-model label on me, that limits me. Because look at those words, 'role' and 'model.' Both of those are fake words, to play a role and to model, that's fake. I'm real. Being real, I drink, I hang out, I party - I do things that a 21-year-old does."
Brand testified while sitting alongside Chip Somers, another former addict who runs a detox center where Brand underwent treatment, using a method called abstinence-based recovery, in which patients stop using addictive substances, even if they are legal.
"We need to start regarding addiction in all its forms as a health issue as opposed to a judicial and criminal issue," Brand said. "What we want is more research and funding into abstinence-based recovery and to be able to filter people towards this new lifestyle."
"We need to change the laws in this country and we need have to more compassionate, altruistic, loving attitude to the people with the disease addiction and recognize that these people, with the proper help, access to the proper treatment, can become active and helpful members of society, like myself," he said, adding, jokingly: "Some would argue that point."
Brand also spoke about his previous drug-related arrests - which total to about 12.
"I was a criminal when I was a drug addict, by virtue of my addiction and the ways that I had to acquire money to get drugs," he said. "I felt when I was arrested that the police were doing the necessary job of enforcing the law of this country and they were doing what they had to do."
"But it wasn't until I had access to abstinence-based recovery that I was able to change my behavior and significantly reduce - all but obliterate - the criminal activity, apart from the occasional skirmish," he added.
In March, the funnyman turned himself into police after he threw a celebrity photographer's iPhone through a window of a building during a confrontation on a street in New Orleans, where he was filming a movie directed by Diablo Cody. Brand was released from jail the same day.