Saturday 21 September 2019

Russell Brand’s fears for today’s technology-driven teenagers

The television personality and radio presenter has been drug- and alcohol-free for 14 years.

Russell Brand attending a launch event for charity RAPt's new employment services for addicts and ex-offenders at the London Recovery Hub.
Russell Brand attending a launch event for charity RAPt's new employment services for addicts and ex-offenders at the London Recovery Hub.

By Rod Minchin, Press Association Reporter

Comedian Russell Brand has spoken of his fears for today’s teenagers, saying they could become as addicted to technology as he was to drugs and alcohol.

The 42-year-old, who has been drug- and alcohol-free for 14 years, spoke candidly about his views of addiction and said he was concerned about new types of addiction.

Brand, who has also been addicted to sex and food, said it was still too early to say what damage could be caused by an addiction to smartphones, social media and technology.

“I think with something like technological addiction we are not in a position to say what the results of that will be,” he said.

“Adolescents now, the access they have to pornography, the way they relate to their friends … studies are coming out of Silicon Valley where the people that pioneered these technologies are saying these things are too dangerous.

“The guy that invented the ‘like’ button on Facebook doesn’t even have his phone in his bedroom any more.

Labour Party annual conference 2017

“They are designed to keep you continually stimulated. I think we will see more and more forms of addiction. Addiction in the sense that you have it, you would like to stop and you can’t.”

The author, presenter and political activist went on: “I would not like to be a teenager now with the inadequacy and the insecurity I felt then, and still feel sometimes now, and being chained to a portal that is bombarding you with other people’s opinions, that tells you you’re not good-looking enough and your body isn’t the right shape and that I should have this product, this product and this product.

“American writer David Foster Wallace’s fear – and this was some time ago before smartphones – is that in 10 years there will be a screen in front of your face at all times and the person on the other side of it doesn’t love you and wants to tell you things.

“This is our dystopia.”

Brand was in conversation with broadcaster Emma Freud during an event at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to promote his new book, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions.

He said that various childhood traumas were the source of a discontent which led to his spiral into addiction, when he first tried drugs at 14.


“If you don’t come to terms with your inner life, trouble is coming. I think with the conditions I have, I had to resolve something inwardly or at least attempt to. I think I failed because I had issues with food, then drugs and issues with sex,” he said.

“I think addiction was an attempt to deal with problems of those conditions.”

The comic said his addictive personality developed as a child and manifested itself in “patterns and tendencies”.

But he was not at his lowest ebb when he decided to get clean.

“It could have got worse for me. There was a density of high-risk incidents with increasing frequency,” he said.

“Then it occurred to me for the first time that it was possible not to take drugs.

“For me it was childhood, then drug addict, then that moment that you don’t have to take drugs and then shipped off to a little place.”

He now follows a programme which was originally created by Christian organisation the Oxford Group, and became the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous’ first 12-step guide.

“If I’d had access to the technique, which ultimately led to me getting clean, as a child, I wouldn’t have necessarily become an addict in the first place,” said Brand.

“I am still flawed and fallible. I am a basket case, and in different times I would have been institutionalised. I have been very lucky that I am not in prison or an institution.

“I am still crazy and I still need a lot of things to hold my life together.”

PA Media

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