Reformed substance abuser Russell Brand — who’s been clean and sober for over a decade — has spent years crusading on behalf of addicts. In 2011, when his friend Amy Winehouse died of accidental alcohol poisoning, he wrote a long tribute to her, taking pains to specify that addiction is a disease: “We need to review the way society treats addicts,” he wrote, “not as criminals but as sick people in need of care.” The following year, he testified before his home country’s Parliament to advocate decriminalizing drug addiction, saying again that those suffering from the disease should be treated with compassion.
And now Brand has weighed in on the recent passing of Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of an apparent heroin overdose early last Sunday.
The comedian begins his Guardian column in an unusual way: by declaring that the demise of, say, a wild young star like Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber would not be particularly shocking. The death of Hoffman, however — “a middle-aged man, a credible and decorated actor, the industrious and unglamorous artisan of Broadway and serious cinema” — strikes us as particularly tragic. In Brand’s eyes, however, it shouldn’t; “the man was a drug addict and his death inevitable.”