Russell Brand Decries Drug Laws, Addiction Stigma in Philip Seymour Hoffman's Death

"We are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts," Brand argues in fiery Guardian column

Photo: Julian Makey/REX USA; Jamie McCarthy/FilmMagic

In a column filled with fiery criticism, British comedian Russell Brand partly blames drug laws and society’s treatment of addiction for the apparent overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Writing in the U.K.’s The Guardian Brand, 38, a recovering addict himself, decries celebrity culture and media seeking to popularize a star’s public fall from grace, but argues that drug prohibition and the criminalization of drugs exacerbate the problem.

“Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand,” Brand writes.

“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?”

Brand, who starred in a 2012 BBC documentary about his own heroin problems, Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery, cites what he describes as “progressive and tolerant drug laws” employed in nations like Switzerland and Portugal as models that might help reduce use and death elsewhere. He also calls for stronger understanding of addiction, which he says cuts across society but causes the poorest to “pay the biggest price.”

“The troubling message behind Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, which we all feel without articulating, is that it was unnecessary and we know that something could be done,” Brand writes. “We also know what that something is and yet, for some traditional, prejudicial, stupid reason we don’t do it.”


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