In the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's tragic death this past weekend of an apparent heroin drug overdose, Russell Brand has penned an op-ed about Philip Seymour Hoffman's death for The Guardian, in which he says that "extremely stupid drug laws" led to the 46-year-old actor's death. Brand, who is a recovering heroin addict himself, wrote:
The reason I am so non-judgmental of Hoffman or Bieber and so condemnatory of the pop cultural tinsel that adorns the reporting around them is that I am a drug addict in recovery, so like any drug addict I know exactly how Hoffman felt when he "went back out". In spite of his life seeming superficially great, in spite of all the praise and accolades, in spite of all the loving friends and family, there is a predominant voice in the mind of an addict that supersedes all reason and that voice wants you dead. This voice is the unrelenting echo of an unfulfillable void.
Brand goes on to blame the drug laws and the treatment of those who are addicted to any illegal substances:
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.
Brand really does have a point here: Drug addiction is better suited to be treated as a disease that prompts counseling and support rather than a criminal activity that is best alleviated by hard jail time — that usually only leads to relapse because the individual isn't getting any actual help for their issues.
In his op-ed, Brand goes on to cite and applaud countries like Portugal and Switzerland for their treatment of those addicted to drugs — "countries like Portugal and Switzerland that have introduced progressive and tolerant drug laws have seen crime plummet and drug-related deaths significantly reduced," he writes —and then goes on to drive the point home with the following:
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.
You can read the full op-ed over at The Guardian, here.