As you probably already know, Russell Brand is a recovering addict, himself, and has shared his insight on the insidious disease of addiction. He has recently been in the news for his work with Comic Relief, raising monies to donate to burgeoning recovery communities in the UK. Yesterday, Russell Brand shared his thoughts, in a piece he wrote for The Guardian, on the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman and on the larger issue of addiction.
Brand writes, “Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise [sic] drug addicts.”
His overall message is this: “that [Hoffman’s death] was unnecessary 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.”
Brand states his case that it’s the stigma about addiction being a problem of morality and an issue of personal weakness that drives the current sociopolitical and judicial treatment of addicts and all-things-drug-related.
“If drugs are illegal [then] 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.”
On prohibition, which is the current way most societies deal with “the drug problem,” Brand writes:
“This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. People are going to use drugs; no self-respecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition…where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.”
There are other places – countries such as Portugal and Switzerland – that are doing things differently by trying out progressive and tolerant drug laws. And these countries have seen a significant decrease in crime and drug-related deaths. So, if a different was is possible then, why haven’t we changed?
It’s obvious that the current system isn’t working and that places that are introducing alternative ways of doing things are yielding desired results.
To this, Brand asks, “why are we not acting? Tradition? Prejudice? Extreme stupidity? The answer is all three. Change is hard, apathy is easy, tradition is the narcotic of our rulers. The people who are most severely affected by drug prohibition are dispensable, politically irrelevant people. Poor people. Addiction affects all of us but the poorest pay the biggest price.”
And although this is more often the case, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder that addiction doesn’t discriminate – it affects people equally across the board, regardless of fame, money, gender, ethnicity, religion.
What’s clear is this: “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 offers a change in perspective saying, “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.”
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.