Can Russell Brand cure cancer?

By Sarah McCulloch

Russell Brand says abstinence programmes are the only way to treat addiction.

Russell Brand

There’s been a bit of a stir in our little world recently. First, Russell Brand, heroin addict-turned-funny-man decided to put out a documentary saying that abstinence-only programmes are the only way to deal with addiction and methadone treatment for heroin users is useless. Secondly, we put out a testimonial from a former cancer sufferer who put his remission down to cannabis oil. Both seem to have caused a fuss on our Facebook page, and both have a common theme – someone telling their story of what worked for them out of compassion for people going through the same thing. We should learn from both.

Now I like Russell, ever since I bought and read his first autobiography and found it that there was more to him than a really nice beard. A top-rate brain ticks beneath that fine, luxurious mane. It’s therefore disappointing to discover that Russell Brand really believes that, if he can just stop taking drugs (in his three month residential treatment programme that most addicts can’t hope to access), then everyone can. Because that’s not what we should take away from his programme. In it, he explicitly refers to Amy Winehouse, who tragically died at the age of 27 from alcohol withdrawal – someone who died because she stopped using drugs totally. How can we then take from this documentary that abstinence is an effective treatment for everyone when Russell’s own examples contradict his point?

You’ve got to work out what worked for you. Some people can just stop, some people have to reduce their use slowly, and some need alternatives like methadone. Russell himself knows this given in the programme that got him off drugs he was prescribed Subutex, an opiate blocker that stops you getting high from heroin even if you use it. But the International HIV Alliance has already replied to Russell regarding the necessity of simple interventions like methadone, clean needles, and safer injecting rooms to deal with our global heroin problem, so I won’t say any more than that.

I think relatively few of the people using this are going to end up on heroin, so a simpler analogy. When my mum decided to give up smoking, she wrote down the day’s date on a piece of paper, tucked it inside her last cigarette packet – and then never smoked again. That was that. When I decided to give up smoking, I got my little NHS Stop Smoking app on my phone, put in the date – and kept right on smoking. It wasn’t until I met someone who had bought an e-cigarette and got a disposable one of my own that I also stopped. Different things work for different people. We have to look at the evidence and act accordingly.

Cannabis oil – can it help?

Which is what we were doing when we published Dave’s thoughts on his cancer story. People have been toting round cannabis as a cure for everything in the last few centuries, including gout, tetanus, cholera, depression, insomnia, migraines, coughing, and, brilliantly, treating opiate or alcohol addiction. I doubt Russell would approve. So it’s unsurprising that we would see claims that cannabis can cure that most lethal of problems, cancer. It is also equally unsurprising that we would see people pooh-poohing such a belief. What we have to do is look at the evidence. That is what Dave was trying to do, to look at what was working for others, and trying it on himself when all else had failed. For him, his experience seems to suggest that cannabis helped. How? That’s what we have to work out.

Does abstinence-only treatment work? The evidence suggests that it doesn’t for most (actually, the evidence suggests the best thing we can do is just give heroin addicts lifelong prescriptions for heroin, but few politicians like that idea). Can cannabis cure cancer? The jury is still out on that one as the research is being done. But what we can say is that, if people like Dave (and Russell) weren’t out there telling their stories, we wouldn’t be bothering with research at all – no-one’s investigating the potential cancer-curing properties of grapes, after all.

So, we need everyone to keep telling their stories, so that in the cut and thrust of the debate, the truth can be set free. And as long as people have a story to tell, NORML UK will publish it for them. Have you tried cannabis as a treatment, for cancer, or anything else? How did that work out for you? Write to us at We’d love to help you tell your story.

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  1. While preliminary findings about RB’s ability to cure cancer are promising, I’d guard against calling him an outright cure. Once he’s been subjected to proper, isolated testing and peer-review, we might be able to approve him as treatment. Although most patients have stated that the cure is worse than the disease… :-/

  2. Well when someone finds out let me know the “cure’ for cancer.I can’t describe the hopeless anger i felt when first reading this.The debate can go on for ever on how to help, while people such as my best mate are slowly shrivelling away.Without getting too sentimental,I can tell you for sure that posting false hopes and debating such matters may for one make a bunch of doo gooders feel better,but it does’nt make the sufferers any better.I know for sure good emotions help restore the dying soul,but they can’t restore a dying body.

    • I am very sorry that your friend is sick, but Dave felt that way as well until he started taking cannabis oil. I’m not going to say that cannabis does, or does not cure cancer, because I haven’t read a conclusive study on it yet. But there’s enough evidence that I wouldn’t say it is “false hope”, to talk about whether it might. False hope is asking for thousands of dollars to try experimental treatments with crystals on your stomach, things like that. Something’s happening to cancer sufferers when they use cannabis oil, we have to determine what.

      And I really hope your friend gets better, whatever he does. Cancer is a nasty thing.


    • The other way of looking at it Crazyoz is that when the Medical Authorities eventually admit that cannabinoids can kill cancer and you realise that the claims weren’t ‘false hopes’ then you will be even angrier

      If you think the oil could help your mate then make some, if you don’t then please don’t insult those that do

  3. The reason I voted Labour was that they had effective drug programs in place, based on what was working, not merely abstinence based… I don’t know the status of Dual Diagnosis nationally, sadly I think it has been cut, same as everything under the current government. Why bother cutting the services given to the people in order to repay a debt to the bank with money that does not even exist?

  4. Crazyoz. There are plenty people in this group in the 2nd link below who can tell you that cannabis CAN cure many conditions including cancer – but not by smoking it, it must be de-carboxylated.See the brief video in the 1st link for explanation:

    Lots of first hand reports from people who have been cured themselves as well as reports from friends relatives and carers.

    People argue about it because they cant see that the govt and the pharmaceutical industry are liars and dont want to read the evidence.

    Want to read some science instead of 1st hand reports – try this link:

    • Are you seriously suggesting for serious science reports use Facebook? There must be a stage when someone will realise that there has to be more “evidence” other than conspiracy theories, Youtube and unverifiable stories about people claiming to be cured.

  5. Cannabis over and above any effect achieved by existing treatments… ‘Unfortunately we don’t have any legal right to grow cannabis in the UK’ but, and this is one very big BUT: Cannabis is now marketed as a treatment for MS spasticity in the UK, Germany, Spain and Denmark. Sativex has also been approved/recommended for approval in a further 14 European countries. Launches are expected in these markets during 2012-13. These countries are Italy, Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. ( )

    Competition law, known in the United States as antitrust law, is law that promotes or maintains market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies.[1]
    The history of competition law reaches back to the Roman Empire. The business practices of market traders, guilds and governments have always been subject to scrutiny, and sometimes severe sanctions. Since the 20th century, competition law has become global. The two largest and most influential systems of competition regulation are United States antitrust law and European Union competition law. National and regional competition authorities across the world have formed international support and enforcement networks.

    ‎600,000 people in Europe could easily grow cannabis and treat themselves… but the LIE that it’s illegal to grow forces them to pay maximum price to GW Pharma for a product we all know should be FREE..!!! this is called a business monopoly, having a market share of only 25% is called a monopoly (GCSE Economics) a business monopoly is illegal under UK law(especially one enforced by the government and the police) GW Pharma clearly has 100% monopoly of cannabis production in the UK…

    It seems like to me the ‘current government have forgotten there own laws…

    • Sativex is an extract of THC and CBH in an exact does per spray. it is a dissolved in alcohol. it isnt cannabis. – unless your cannabis contains two chemicals of known quantity and comes i a spray. it is as stupid as saying foxgloves are the same as digoxin or a poppy is in fact morphine. And on top of that the reason it isnt used in the UK is that we are a little more picky over our medicines . We want them to work and be cost effective. Sativex showed a reported effect in less than 42 % of patients and had no significant function in function.. It is also very expensive. Cannabis has been shown in trials to neither slow progression of MS nor to improve spasticity clinically – only subjectively. Even then most trials were less than 80 people and run for short periods of time , were not adequately blinded and high levels of side effects drop out and intolerability.

      • Sativex is an extract of cannabis mixed with peppermint. GWPharma were given a license to grow tons of cannabis to make this cannabis extract, because they gave a large amount of money to the Labour party.

        It’s nowhere near as effective as real cannabis and much more expensive. You should educate yourself about the medicinal strains out there that have high CBD : THC ratios. I know plenty of medicinal users with conditions such as MS who would vehemently disagree with your assertion; they would also prefer to medicate any day with proper medical grade cannabis, rather than the peppermint flavoured cannabis extract made by GW Phama, since the side effects of this are burning mouth, dehydration, and any benefits short lasting, furthermore it is only one kind of cannabis, whereas there are many strains of cannabis that are suitable for different conditions and/ or treating various symptoms. For example, an MS patient might want an energising Sativa early in the morning to help them through the day or a heavy Indica at night to help them sleep.

    • That is actually a good argument and much the same as the EU law giving all EU citizens equal rights is partly responsible for the Dutch goverment backing down on the weedpass. Keep the solid arguments up and feck the hype.

    • It is perfectly LAWFUL to grow/produce/use/sell Cannabis Hemp and parts thereof. Unfortunately, parts of this process were made illegal.
      (un)Lawful – is it a crime of loss, damage or harm?
      (il)Legal – is it a violation of a contract?
      As long as you have a contract with the UK Gov’t (Gov’t birth certificate, NI Number etc.) and use a Lawyer to argue for you in a commercial/Magistrates court, then you will lose.
      If you stand up for yourself, without a corporate slave (Lawyer) in a court with a jury of your peers, then you will win.


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