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Matthew Perry fires up on drug debate

Former Friends star Matthew Perry calls conservative journalist Peter Hitchens 'Santa' over his denial that drug addiction exists.

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Actor Matthew Perry exchanged heated words with British journalist Peter Hitchens about drug addiction and prevention on BBC's Newsnight, with the former Friends star claiming Hitchens' ideas were as "ludicrous as saying that Peter Pan was real".

Hitchens lambasted addicts as people who chose to take drugs and did not deserve sympathy, especially from the “feeble” legal system.

"There is an immense fashion at the moment for dismissing the ability of people to take control over their own lives and to make excuses for them," the anti-drug campaigner said.

'Wrong' ... Matthew Perry criticises Peter Hitchens on BBC's <i>Newsnight</i>.

'Wrong' ... Matthew Perry criticises Peter Hitchens on BBC's Newsnight.

Hitchens claimed that the presence of drug courts, which focus on rehabilitating non-violent drug offenders rather than prosecuting them, were failing.

“It doesn't do anybody any favours to be nice to drug takers,” he said.

He went on to deny the veracity of medical science that claimed addiction was a disease, saying to Perry and social worker Baroness Molly Meacher: "Well you two believe in this fantasy of addiction, a complete fantasy, in which people lose all power over themselves and become victims of this terrible, frightening disease after which they cannot stop taking drugs. If you really believe that then you would presumably think that the best thing would be they never ever come in contact with those drugs.

"Wouldn't it therefore be wise to deter them from doing so by a stern and effective criminal justice system which actually persuaded them it was unwise to take the drugs in the first place."

Perry, a former addict, said Hitchens' claims were "ludicrous", adding "my life is the objective evidence".

The actor checked into rehab twice during his 10-year stint as Chandler Bing on Friends, and recently transformed his home in Malibu into a sober home for men, called Perry House.

“I'm a drug addict," he told Hitchens. "I'm a person that, if I have a drink, I can't stop. And so it would be following your ideology that I'm choosing to do that.”

Perry had earlier defended drug courts and the treatment of addicts, saying that people who go through the system have a “55 per cent less chance of ever seeing handcuffs ever again”.

The 11-minute segment on Jeremy Paxman's popular current affairs program descended into snide remarks, with an annoyed Perry calling on Hitchens to act as a grown man and “read something other than your book”. Hitchens, meanwhile, concluded that Perry was "smug" and a person who couldn't "argue seriously".

"You're just a person who's talking, who's wrong," Perry told Hitchens.

"Not that your aspirin point wasn't genius but you don't know what you're talking about."

The book in question is Hitchens' 2012 release The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment's Surrender to Drugs , which was slammed by critics.

One review condemned Hitchens for the book being “full of nasty insinuation” and claimed it “should never have been published”. Another highlighted the “self-righteousness so intense that it amounts to moral racism” and labelled the author “hysterical” and a “manic preacher”.

- staff writers