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Russell Brand Thinks Drug Laws Killed Philip Seymour Hoffman

Hoffman brand article

Oh, Russell Brand. He’s got a lot of political ideals, many of which I either vaguely or heartily agree on, but sometimes he says stuff that just… eh, I dunno. It rubs me (and MANY people, I’m sure) the wrong way. His latest claim is that drug laws and the stigma against addicts caused Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s death last week from a heroin overdose. In a sense, I get where he’s going. We’d have been much less shocked if someone like Miley or Justin fell victim to their wild lifestyles; it would almost have been morbidly expected. Someone like PSH, who was a widely-respected actor whose lifestyle was kept private and never sensationalized, was a more unlikely victim of this awful fate. With you so far, Russ.

Here’s a bit of what he wrote for The Guardian:

Whilst routinely described as tragic, Hoffman’s death is insufficiently sad to be left un-supplemented in the mandatory posthumous scramble for salacious garnish; we will now be subjected to mourn-ography 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 “go over”, 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.

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.

People are going to use drugs; no self-respecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition. What prohibition achieves is an unregulated, criminal-controlled, sprawling, global mob-economy, where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.

I do think drug laws are useless when they apply to the user rather than the cartels that make millions selling misery and death to addicts, but we can’t just go and make everything legal. How is that going to halt addiction? While addicts may not be deterred by anti-drug laws, making it readily available on every corner is only going to make it more easily accessible and that certainly isn’t a recipe for getting clean. I’m not saying I have the answer – I certainly don’t, and it’s a complicated issue. Clearly Russell Brand, who has battled with all kinds of addiction for decades, knows a bit more about it than I do, but I just can’t say I agree.

What do you guys think?

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12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • If you can solve this conundrum, you will either become very wealthy or be honored with some sort of Nobel prize.

  • There is the rumor that the drugs were tainted. If that is true federal regulation would hopefully make sure what people were buying would at least be what they were expecting to get. Just a thought but honestly who knows?

  • I think we can all acknowledge that drug taking persists despite it being illegal. Laws against taking drugs have proven to be ineffective. In light of this, perhaps legislation governing the behaviour will help mitigate the consequences. For me, it is the death, illness, negative drug seeking behaviour (theft, etc.) are a few of the major we’d like to curb drug usage. If we could somehow lessen these, we’d see a safer, healthier world for those who use substances.

    Of course addiction in and of itself is a negative consequence of drug use… and I have no idea how we’d combat this… We know that fear of addiction is not enough of a warning to not do drugs, and nor is threat of legal consequences. In light of this, I think recognizing it’s occuring, and trying to make it safer is the answer.

    • A friend of mine is in North Dakota taking part in the great fracking boom there. He said one of the toughest things they are encountering in finding people to work there is getting people hired who can pass the drug tests! He said the problem when he worked in Ohio and Pennsylvania was acute, in that so many guys showed up who could do the work, but couldn’t pass the drug tests in order to drive vehicles or operate equipment that the company used.

      • Damn! Didn’t realise North Dakota was such a drug hub! That’s so crazy. Is it testing for everything (like, say, down to pot) or is this just hard drugs everyone is doing?

      • Jennifer – I’m sure they test for marijuana, but I’m not 100% sure. He said that the jobs pay between $20 – $30/hour to start, with full benefits. More as you work your way up the chain.

        He said it was for insurance and safety reasons that they test for drugs. The jobs they do can be dangerous is you’re not paying attention. His attitude was that if you can’t clean up for 30 days to get a good job in Ohio, Pennsylvania or North Dakota, then you aren’t serious about the job.

        In my experience, if you have a booming local economy (like when the Alaska pipeline was being built or the fracking industry right now in various parts of the country), drugs and alcohol soon flow toward where the money is being made.

      • Yeah, they test for ganja too….. Tell your friend to be careful, you know the epa gave fracking an exemption & they are not required to disclose all the chemicals in the fracking liquid. Its the Klondike in ND now, ppl who retired in comfort can no longer afford basic rent. Fracking and the oil sands are an environmental/human crisis just waiting to happen.

      • Chaz – I thought so (i.e. drug testing for marijuana). You’re right about the chemicals in fracking. Ridiculous they don’t have to disclose them. If you look at the pictures of the oil sands removal sites in Canada, the landscape looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Doubt the mining companies will be required to restore them at all, just leave the waste lagoons filled with nasty chemicals when they leave.

        And the skyrocketing rents in places like North Dakota are a natural result of lack of living spaces in the middle of nowhere. I remember in the early 1980’s a college friend went up to work on the Alaska pipeline when it was being built and told me he was paying $1,500/month to share an Airstream camper trailer with two other guys.