Matthew Perry and Peter Hitchens clash on Newsnight over drugs policy
Friends star calls British columnist ‘Santa’ and a ‘Peter Pan’ fantasist for denying that addiction is real.
The Friends star Matthew Perry and the British newspaper columnist Peter Hitchens have clashed over drugs policy, with Perry calling his opponent’s questioning of the existence of drug addiction “as ludicrous as saying Peter Pan is real”.
The pair were part of a debate on specialist courts – in which former addicts sit as lay magistrates dealing with abuse-related crimes – on the BBC’s Newsnight programme on Monday night.
Arguing in favour of their use, Perry said: “I know that they work. People that go through drug court have a 55% less chance of ever seeing handcuffs ever again.”
But fighting the opposite corner, the journalist and anti-drug campaigner Peter Hitchens railed against the idea and what he described as the “fantasy of addiction”.
“You are making a point that is as ludicrous as saying Peter Pan is real,” said Perry, who reached fame as the sitcom character Chandler Bing and has battled addiction.
At one point Perry referred to the Mail on Sunday columnist as “Santa” and told him to “read something other than your book” in reference to Hitchens’s essay The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender To Drugs.
Asked if he disagreed with the medical profession’s designation of addiction as a disease, Hitchens responded: “The medical profession is constantly doing extraordinary things. The American Psychiatric Association said for years homosexuality was a disease – they were wrong.”
Hitchens, who has previously debated drugs policy with the comedian and former heroin addict Russell Brand, countered that more people had taken illegal substances since possession was effectively made legal. “This is a very serious subject and you treat it with immense levity,” he told Perry.
“The policy which you so smugly and loftily advocate, this policy has led to disaster in western countries for decades.”
After the heated debate, the Newsnight editor Ian Katz tweeted that he had dispatched a producer to take Perry and Hitchens out of the building through different exits.
More on drugs policy
Reclassifying ketamine is more fiddling while the crack pipe burns
Drugs unlimited: how I created my very own legal high
Why ending the war on drugs will cut crime
The government’s plan to curb drug-driving is a car crash