Lessons From Philip Seymour Hoffman: Russell Brand Says Our Drug Laws Need To Change

Philip Seymour Hoffman, drug addiction, Russell Brand, drug laws, addiction, Buddhism and addiction, Russell Brand Dalai Lama

A lot of us were so surprisingly saddened by the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. He was undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of this generation. I had heard various cool stories about him from an old friend who knew him. I love this story here of a critic who met him on the subway. Given that he was only 46 when he overdosed from heroin, there is a huge pile of sadness from the sudden reality of his death.

In yesterday’s Guardian newspaper, Russell Brand, who continues to present himself as a true intellectual hiding in a wild comedian’s clothing, argues that Hoffman’s death is the result of idiotic drug laws which need to change.

Russell Brand Dalai Lama Drug LawsI don’t exactly know how I feel about the matter. I have often felt, given all medical wisdom about their actual effects, that it is completely ridiculous that alcohol is legal and marijuana is not. I also know the way the mind works a little bit, and I know many friends who have suffered from various forms of addiction. I also know that’s when you try to force the mind to do something, you often create a lot of destructive rebellion, instead of compliance. This seems to be a general principle of how the mind follows “laws.”

We usually learn about health and well-being through positive reinforcement more than fear of punishment, especially when the fear of punishment is so severe that it means you have to hide your addiction in the dark corners of life. That much I believe. So perhaps the laws should change. So, then, should our prison system.

But should heroin be legalized? I’m not so sure about that. Give Brand’s article a read though. He makes some points worth contemplating.



2 thoughts on “Lessons From Philip Seymour Hoffman: Russell Brand Says Our Drug Laws Need To Change

  1. As I’m learning watching the new changes in Washington State marijuana laws, ‘legalization’ – and the ‘decriminalization’ Brand seems to be talking about – isn’t as simple as it may look. As a Dharma practitioner with long-term recovery (one day at a time!), my feelings and thoughts are mixed. As a parent, I can easily say I’d strongly prefer my child not fall into the habitual use of drugs or alcohol, let alone become dependent on them. In fact, it scares the hell out of me to think that my child may one day suffer from some of the same self-destructive habits with which I’ve struggled over the years. But drug laws? In the US, it seems they can’t be viewed separately from the system of mass-incarceration and punishment here. Sometimes, because of limits and control imposed by that system, people are helped. But, too often they’re crushed or crippled. Stigmatization and black markets are visible unwanted products of drug prohibition. The negative effects of drug laws on individuals are less visible. And, when noticed, those effects are too easily attributed to the bad behavior of the addicts. I think, while we ask questions about whether drug laws are good or bad, it’s important to consider the interests for whom drug prohibition may be good or bad. Without a deeper understanding of that, I believe it will be difficult to get beyond talking about change and actually help it happen. Thanks for posting the article. I think Russell Brand is one of the most thoughtful and accessible commentators on addiction issues around these days, and I appreciate his willingness to put himself out there as someone in recovery.

  2. Our drug laws are messed up, for sure, and are applied inequitably. but making heroin more easily accessible doesn’t seem like a good option. it seems to take over people’s lives quickly and override other considerations.

    Hoffman was an addict, knew he was an addict, and had been in rehab within the last year or so, from what I’ve read. he had access to treatment if he wanted it.

    when my younger child was in high school, we went to a drug awareness program at their school where groups of parents and kids were led in discussions. one girl said that she didn’t drink because she didn’t want to disappoint her parents, who would be upset. I think that’s healthy at 14-15. and parents who facilitate their kids’ drinking at that age are idiots.

    there’s a value in having standards, in saying, we want you not to use drugs to escape your boredom/emotions/thoughts/isolation. but we need to teach people healthy ways to do that then.

    Hoffman was interviewed about happiness as a part of a Rubin Museum series, and says that he doesn’t know what happiness is or if he’s happy, but he does know that pleasure is not happiness. it’s the confusion of pleasure and happiness that creates so much suffering.

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