Matthew Perry sparks furious drug debate with Peter Hitchens on Newsnight

The pair formed part of a discussion on specialist drugs courts, in which former addicts will sit as lay magistrates

It was a moment Friends fans probably never thought they’d see: watching Chandler Bing furiously debating drug policy with outspoken columnist Peter Hitchens on Newsnight.

But that’s exactly what happened when actor Matthew Perry – who is a self-proclaimed recovering alcohol and vicodin addict – appeared on the current affairs programme opposite host Jeremy Paxman and Lords' Baroness Meacher last night.

The pair formed part of a discussion on specialist drugs courts, in which former addicts will sit as lay magistrates in order to pass a more informed judgement on abuse-related crimes.

"I know that they work," Perry argued in favour. "People that go through drug court have a 55 per cent less chance of ever seeing handcuffs ever again."

But Hitchens – himself a strident anti-drug campaigner – fought back, disputing the reality of drug dependency by describing a “ fantasy of addiction”.

"The medical profession is constantly doing extraordinary things. The American Psychiatric Association said for years homosexuality was a disease – they were wrong," Hitchens said, disagreeing with the designation of addiction as a disease.

"You are making a point that is as ludicrous as saying Peter Pan is real," Perry hit back.

Later on, Perry angrily referred to Hitchens as "Santa" and advised him to "read something other than your book", referencing the writer’s essay The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment's Surrender To Drugs.

Hitchens then rebutted, claiming that more people had taken drugs 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."

In fact, things got so heated between the pair that Newsnight editor Ian Katz  instructed the show’s producer to take Perry and Hitchens out of the BBC building through separate exits, he confirmed on Twitter.

Hitchens had previously kicked up a storm when he went at loggerheads with former addict Russell Brand over the issue of drugs policy on the show.

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