9/2/2014 By Russell Brand:
Philip Seymour Hoffman is Another Victim of Extremely Stupid Drug Laws
By Russell Brand
In Hoffman’s domestic or sex life there is no undiscovered riddle – the man was a drug addict and, thanks to our drug laws, his death inevitable
February 06, 2014 “Information Clearing House “The Guardian” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death was not on the bill.
If it’d been the sacrifice of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, that we are invited to anticipate daily, we could delight in the Faustianjustice of the righteous dispatch of a fastliving, sequinspattered denizen of eMpTyV. We are tacitly instructed to await their demise with necrophilic sanctimony. When the end comes, they screech on Fox and TMZ, it will be deserved. The indignation, luridly baiting us with the sidebar that scrolls from the headline down to hell.
But Philip Seymour Hoffman? A middleaged man, a credible and decorated actor, the industrious and unglamorous artisan ofBroadway 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 unsupplemented in the mandatory posthumous scramble for salacious garnish; we
will now be subjected to mournography 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 “goover”, 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.
The reason I am so nonjudgmental of Hoffman or Bieber and so condemnatory of the pop cultural tinsel that 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 backout”. 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.
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, 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 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 sogallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstancesmaximise the harm caused by substance misuse.
People are going to use drugs; no selfrespecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition. What prohibition achieves isan unregulated, criminalcontrolled, sprawling, global mobeconomy, where drug users, their families and society at large exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.
Countries like Portugal and Switzerland that have introduced progressive and tolerant drug laws have seen crime plummet and drugrelated deaths significantly reduced. We know this. We know this system doesn’t work and yet we prop it up and indifference.
Why? Wisdom is acting on knowledge. Now we are aware that our drug laws aren’t working and that alternativesare yielding positive results, why are we not acting? Tradition? Prejudice? Extreme stupidity? The answer is all three.
Change ishard, apathy is easy, tradition is the narcotic of our rulers. The people who are most severely affected by drug prohibition aredispensable, politically irrelevant people. Poor people. Addiction affects all of us but the poorest pay the biggest price.
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard tounderstand. 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 deserve to suffer? Would he have OD’d if drugs were regulated, controlled and professionally administered?
Most importantly, ifwe insisted as a society that what is required for people who suffer from this condition is an environment of support, tolerance understanding.
The troubling message behind Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death, which we all feel without articulating, is that and we know that something could be done. We also know what that something is and yet, for some traditional, prejudicial, stupid reason we don’t do it.
• Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton, is petitioning for an inquiry into UK drug laws: