Keith Allen defends taking drugs on camera for new Channel 4 documentary

The actor and musician says that Drugs Live is a "very, very forensic analysis" of the effects of recreational drugs

Maverick actor Keith Allen has defended his participation in a new Channel 4 series in which he filmed taking drugs, saying it would be “insane” to suggest that the show glamorises drug use.


Drugs Live, which has been in the pipeline at Channel 4 since 2011, is an upcoming four-part series which attempts to get to the truth about the effects of recreational drugs by testing them in a series of monitored experiments.

The documentary features Allen taking MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy, but the 59-year-old actor says that the documentary was designed as a “forensic analysis” into the effects of drugs rather than a celebration of their use.

Speaking on ITV1’s This Morning, Allen said: “If you think that I’m glamorising the taking of drugs by spending an hour and 20 minutes for two consecutive Mondays in an MRI scanning machine, then you’re insane.

“There were policemen taking part. There were definitely soldiers, people who’d never taken it before. It’s a very, very forensic analysis, a neurological analysis of the effects of MDMA.”

He added: “It led to a debate on Channel 4 with the police, with Government ministers. It’s a very forensic analysis and a very calm look at the question of legality and illegality of drugs.”

Allen also admitted that he was in favour of taxing drugs, provided the funds raised could be used to support public services.

 “I was listening to John Lydon on Question Time. “He said ‘I don’t want my drugs to be taxed’. Ironically I do,” said Allen.

“If I take drugs, I think I would be a better dancer if I knew that by taking drugs somebody could have a hip replacement or a knee operation or could be cared for in an old people’s home. I don’t mind paying for that.”

David Glover, Channel 4’s Specialist Factual Commissioning Editor, said of Drugs Live: “This subject is fraught with controversy and confusion – this series will provide viewers with unmediated access to a live drug trial.

“Viewers will be able to see for themselves the actual effects the drugs have in scientific detail. The aim is to bring new clarity to the facts of illegal drug use.” 


However the programme has met with criticism from drugs charity Addaction, whose Chief Executive Simon Antrobus said it is “ultimately unrepresentative of some of the wider realities of drug taking.”