Chip advises MPs on drug strategy and abstinence

Chip Somers from Focus 12 with Emily McMilllan.
Chip Somers from Focus 12 with Emily McMilllan.

THE head of a leading Bury St Edmunds drugs charity and one of its celebrity patrons were invited to speak to a Parliamentary committee of MPs on Monday.

Chip Somers, chief executive of Focus12, and comedian Russell Brand told the Home Affairs Select Committee their views on drug strategy, drug treatment and, in particular, the importance of using abstinence-based treatment to overcome addiction.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Somers said he and Mr Brand had told the committee the criminalisation verses legalisation of drugs debate was of no importance to them, as they only dealt with the consequences of addiction.

He said: “We tried to get our message across, that we really fundamentally believe that abstinence is the best way of dealing with long-term dependency.”

He added: They gave us a good opportunity to put forward our views about abstinence treatment.

“They were concerned about the role of celebrities in terms of their influence, good or bad, on drug use and they were also keen to look at how people could be better educated or get better information about drugs and the way that happens, in schools for instance.”

Mr Somers has been working with addiction and alcohol problems for more than 25 years and said it was hard to find a school in Suffolk that acknowledged any kind of drug problem.

An appropriate way for schools to deliver their drugs policy and appeal to their pupils, according to Mr Somers, is to recognise that although all drugs have negative consequences, initially users may only experience seemingly positive effects.

He added: “As a former heroin addict, to be invited to a Parliamentary select committee was good for me personally and says something about abstinence treatment and how much people can change.”

Mr Brand, a former addict and Focus12 patron, is currently filming a documentary about addiction and, on Sunday, dropped into Focus12 to speak to some of its clients, offereing some words of encouragement to help them stick to their treatment programme.

It is likely to be released in September, in conjunction with a charity concert in Twickenham which is being planned by the Amy Winehouse Foundation and Comic Relief.