Did anyone catch the debate on addiction and crime with former friends star Matthew Perry and Peter Hitchens on Newsnight at the end of 2013 ? I just happened by it recently whilst pottering around on YouTube. If the personage of Peter Hitchens has passed you by, he is a journalist, Christian apologist and brother of the recently deceased polemicist and secularist Christopher Hitchens. Perry is apparently a recovering addict and an advocate for drug courts. These are quite prevalent in the US and advocate recovery based restoration as opposed to straightforward punitive measures. It was an interesting topic but the discussion itself was curiously vapid. Hitchens seemed to spend eleven odd minutes espousing increasingly quite sketchy and largely discounted ideas, whilst the other spent his time slightly purple with rage. I think this stemmed from his frustration at not being able to summon enough literary comparisons to describe someone ‘not living in the real world.’ Either way, neither seemed to advance the issue very much.
I’ve included the video above, but if you can’t be bothered to watch to the whole thing (it’s pretty uninspiring stuff), it breaks down like this:
Mr Hitchens disputed the notion of addiction as a disease, labelling it as a ‘fantasy’. He discounted Mr Perry’s insistence that this was at odds with The American Medical Association on the grounds that medicine was fallible and knowledge fluid, citing the relatively recent understanding of the role of bacteria as opposed to stress in the creation of ulcers and the disastrous use of Thalidomide in the 70s. Likewise he suggested that the American Psychiatric Association’s historical diagnosis of homosexuality as a disease undermined them as an unimpeachable authority. The main thrust of his argument seemed to suggest that addiction was a moral or spiritual problem, one in which the exercise of free will was at the core of all recovery. He suggested that the difficulty of abstaining from heroin or indeed any drug was much overstated and that the presence of ‘former’ addicts (those whom had eschewed drugs) was ipso facto proof that addiction was not physiological. In a final salvo he suggested that the drug problem in this country and others could be effectively eradicated by more stringent deterrents. Once these punitive measures were in place and seen to be acted on it would deter future drug takers.