In an 800-word essay for The Guardian, Brand, who’s been reportedly sober since 2003, calls the actor’s death “inevitable” due to current drug laws. According to the British comedian, the stigma of addiction should be removed and laws should not paint addicts as criminals, but rather people that need compassion.
“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,” he writes. “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.”
Calling law makers “out of touch” and their methods “gallingly ineffective,” Grand points out that countries like Portugal and Switzerland’s crime rates and drug-related deaths plummet significantly after introducing progressive and tolerant drug laws.
“Now we are aware that our drug laws aren’t working and that alternatives are yielding positive results, 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,” he explains. “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.”
“Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death is a reminder, though, that addiction is indiscriminate. That it is sad, irrational and hard to understand. What it also clearly demonstrates is that we are a culture that does not know how to treat its addicts,” he adds. “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?”
“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. We also know what that something is and yet, for some traditional, prejudicial, stupid reason we don’t do it.”