Russell Brand On Phillip Seymour Hoffman And The Failure Of The War On Drugs

Everyone has an opinion about the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He’s not even buried yet and the story is covered from just about every angle, so naturally, Russell Brand has to chime in because he knows a little something about drugs. Via The Guardian:

But Philip Seymour Hoffman? A middle-aged man, a credible and decorated actor, the industrious and unglamorous artisan of Broadway and serious cinema? The disease of addiction recognises none of these distinctions. Whilst routinely described as tragic, Hoffman’s death is insufficiently sad to be left un-supplemented in the mandatory posthumous scramble for salacious garnish; we will now be subjected to mourn-ography posing as analysis. I can assure you that there is no as yet undiscovered riddle in his domestic life or sex life, the man was a drug addict and his death inevitable.

A troubling component of this sad loss is the complete absence of hedonism. Like a lot of drug addicts, probably most, who “go over”, Hoffman was alone when he died. This is an inescapably bleak circumstance. When we reflect on Bieber’s Louis Vuitton embossed, Lamborghini cortege it is easy to equate addiction with indulgence and immorality. The great actor dying alone denies us this required narrative prang.

Everything about this is sad. Brand manages to sum up the sadness quite well in the article, and makes it even more depressing when picturing a talented man doing drugs alone in his apartment.

Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise drug addicts.

If drugs are illegal people who use drugs are criminals. We have set our moral compass on this erroneous premise, and we have strayed so far off course that the landscape we now inhabit provides us with no solutions and greatly increases the problem.

This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. We know that the people who devise drug laws are out of touch and have no idea how to reach a solution. Do they even have the inclination? The fact is their methods are so gallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstances to maximise the harm caused by substance misuse.

I agree with Brand on his opinion on the War on Drugs. When I see someone do drugs, I don’t think CRIMINAL, but I feel bad if it’s one of the hard drugs, like Heroin. I used to work in Detroit fixing-up houses, and I never worried about wasting time cutting the grass at a house because the moment we got there a guy looking for a fix offered to cut the grass for only 5 bucks. He quickly grabbed the money and ran to a dealer as fast as he could.

Throwing people in jail for having some weed is irrational and the one of the reasons why America’s prison system is so overcrowded.

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand. What it also clearly demonstrates is that we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts. Would Hoffman have died if this disease were not so enmeshed in stigma? If we weren’t invited to believe that people who suffer from addiction deserve to suffer? Would he have OD’d if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered? Most importantly, if we insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance and understanding.

Quitting a drug is immensely difficult. Quitting smoking is one of the hardest drugs to quit, and one of the dumbest habits to start. I can’t imagine starting and then quitting Heroin, but then again, needles freak me out.

Source: The Guardian, Image via Getty