Educate Children About Drugs And Alcohol
Russell Brand today said he turned to drink and drugs as a youngster because he felt "lonely and sad" and that addressing the underlying issues for young people was more important than "moralising".
The comedian spoke as he backed an initiative by Amy Winehouse's father in London on Tuesday 12th March, to tackle young people's drug and drink problems that "does not moralise" and does not tell children not to take drugs.
The Amy Winehouse Resilience Programme will be rolled out to 50 secondary schools across England and will provide a free confidential phone and online service for young people, supported by Childline.
It will also use recovering addicts to tell their stories in schools, rather than medical workers, police or teachers.
Brand, who stars in Get Him To The Greek, is now clean of drugs and alcohol, and threw his backing behind the programme.
"When you are talking to young people about drugs and alcohol, what's important is not to moralise about it or say 'don't do drugs' or futile, impotent messages that don't reach young people," he said.
"I think that it's important to address why people drink or take drugs in the first place, whether they are young or old.
"I remember when I was a kid the reason drugs first became attractive to me was because I felt kind of lonely and felt sad.
"What's important to me is the emotional and spiritual issues that underlie drug use in schools and in communities.
"I think if people have a facility and a system to address those emotional difficulties, then the patterns around their drug use, alcoholism also, will change."
Behind the programme is Mitch Winehouse, the late singer's father, who said he learned that his approach with daughter Amy, who died aged 27 in July 2011 from accidental alcohol poisoning, would "never work" for young people.
"We don't moralise, we don't say, 'don't take drugs, it's bad for you, don't smoke, don't take those bloomin' legal highs', we don't do any of that," said Mr Winehouse.
"The last thing kids want is for parents to make decisions for them. It'll never work - it didn't work for me, it won't work for other parents.
"You should have heard the conversations that me and Amy used to have, I bet they were they same conversations that Russell had with his mum and dad - 'what the hell are you doing, why are you taking drugs, why don't you stop taking drugs, why don't you stop drinking?'.
"Of course now we understand that it's far more complex than that."
Mr Winehouse also bemoaned the "epidemic" of legal highs and called on the Government to help fund the programme but acknowledged that in times of austerity, it was unlikely.
"The first thing that gets cut when there's budget cuts in the austere financial conditions in which we live today are children's services. There is no money for drugs and alcohol education programmes like ourselves."
The Amy Winehouse Foundation last week highlighted a poll by ComRes of more than 4,000 adults which found four in five parents with children up to the age of 15 at school felt drug and alcohol abuse among young people was a serious problem in the UK.
Only 33% believed schools provide adequate education to children and young people around drugs and alcohol, while the same percentage felt the Government was doing enough to tackle under-age drinking and illegal drug use.