By now, you should be familiar with Russell Brand, if not for his celebrity status – appearing in such films as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek – then by his status as a recovering addict and advocate for changing the addiction stigma.
The British actor and comedian is known for his activism; someone who never shrinks from discussions regarding revolution and social inequality. And it was business as usual when he appeared on the independent global news program Democracy Now! to discuss, among other things, a subject with which he has personal experience. That of drug addiction.
The 39-year-old actor is now 12 years clean and sober.
Brand took the opportunity to criticize the war on drug during his segment on the popular program. When host Amy Goodman mentioned the recent high-profile, tragic overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the shocking suicide of Robin Williams – whose death did not involve drugs – Brand had this to say:
“I suppose those high-profile and sad deaths provide an opportunity to highlight how many lives are affected by addiction and the need to address it by different means,” he told Goodman. “I think criminalizing and penalizing people that are ill like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams is sort of pointless. It doesn’t work…I think the only way for drug addiction to be correctly addressed is for it to be regulated properly, not left in the hands of criminals.”
Brand is an outspoken critic of Britain’s drug laws, specifically, and the larger drug war. He told the BBC, “I was part of a social and economic class that is under-served by the current political system, and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates.”
As an activist, Brand puts his money where his mouth is. He has testified before British Parliament – back in 2012 – calling for a pragmatic, compassionate approach to dealing with drug addiction and actively contributes to compassionate substance abuse treatment.
Last year, he launched the Give It Up Fund in the United Kingdom, which established “recovery communities” that help people reenter society after leaving rehab by providing local services such as housing, healthcare, career guidance, and fellowship.
While appearing on Democracy Now!, Brand also had this to say:
“The reason people are addicted to drugs is because there is sort of a deficit of happiness, a deficit of community, a deficit of connection,” he told Goodman. “I think a lot of us feel a little adrift, like we don’t know how we’re supposed to live, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. And in the end, some kind of anesthetic becomes attractive. Certainly, that’s my personal experience.”
Brand added, “I recognize now that the thing that I was chasing after in my years of addiction was probably some sort of sense of communal connection or connection to a higher thing.”
If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol or you suspect someone you love is struggling, help is available. All it takes is one phone call – a toll-free call – to 1-800-951-6135 and you will be directly connected to someone who is knowledgeable and compassionate about the disease of drug addiction. We can answer your questions and help you decide what’s next. Recovery is possible.