Philip Seymour Hoffman, Casualty Of The Drug Wars

Russell Brand has an op-ed in The Guardian arguing that  “Philip Seymour Hoffman is another victim of extremely stupid drug laws.” Here is a portion:

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.

This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. We know that the people who devise drug laws are out of touch and have no idea how to reach a solution. Do they even have the inclination? The fact is their methods are so gallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstances to maximise the harm caused by substance misuse.

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.

Countries like Portugal and Switzerland that have introduced progressive and tolerant drug laws have seen crime plummet and drug-related deaths significantly reduced. We know this. We know this system doesn’t work – and yet we prop it up with ignorance and indifference. Why? Wisdom is acting on knowledge. 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. 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.

More from Aaron Sorkin here.

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16 Comments

  1. 1
    David Duff says:

    Philip Seymour Hoffman was a victim of Philip Seymour Hoffman!
     
    And from the fortunately little I know of Mr. Russell Brand he is an egotistical, self-indulgent, little twerp with the intelligence of a slug.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    You certainly aren’t a compassionate conservative.

    I don’t know much about Russell Brand but even if you are right about him, he is right in his evaluation of the problems with our drug laws.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman was a victim of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and his disease (addiction). He is also a victim of the drug wars because if this didn’t prevent proper treatment of his disease he would probably still be alive. There are many more victims of the drug wars, including many deaths per year of this type and many people (primarily minorities) spending years in prison for even minor offenses such as marijuana possession.

    While I can’t say anything more about Brand, this is all quite unfortunate from what I know about Hoffman. Besides what we know about him from his achievements as an actor, one person I know who did meet Phillip Seymour Hoffman describes him as being a nice normal guy (normal in a good way compared to how a celebrity might act).

  3. 3
    David Duff says:

    Yeah, yeah, so rotten luck, Phil ol’ boy, not your fault, of course, you were just a victim, and, well, pity about your lady and your three kids you left in the lurch!
     
    By their deeds shall you know them, and all that jazz!

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    That’s not what I said at all, but you’ve never let facts, or accurate accounts of what others have said, intrude upon your biases.

  5. 5
    David Duff says:

    Why change the habits of a lifetime?  Good ol’ Phil never did!

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    There might have been a better chance of changing his habits, or at least making them less deadly, if we treated addiction as a medical problem instead of a crime.

  7. 7
    David Duff says:

    No, it’s not “medical”, it’s a character flaw and there’s no cure for that!

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    No, addiction is a medical issue.

  9. 9
    David Duff says:

    Only if by “medical” you mean the sort of nonsense spouted by sundry ‘psycho-babblers’ – and if you believe them you’ll believe anything!

  10. 10
    Ron Chusid says:

    I’m referring to the established medical viewpoint, based upon brain chemistry as opposed to psycho-babblers.

  11. 11
    David Duff says:

    So no free will then?

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:

    Understanding that addiction is a disease has nothing to do with whether there is free will.

  13. 13
    David Duff says:

    If I have arthritis I can do nothing about it except to follow doctor’s orders and treatment.  I cannot, as it were, wish it away.
     
    If I have an addiction, as I once did to smoking around 60 cigs a day, I have a choice – give it up or don’t give it up.  I gave it up but PSH did not.

  14. 14
    Ron Chusid says:

    If someone has an addiction, they can make choices, which is why addiction treatment can be successful. We also cannot ignore the physiology. Just as you cannot wish away inflammation in the joints, addicts cannot wish away changes in brain chemistry which make it harder for them to stop, and this needs to be considered in treatment. Cigarettes were intentionally made to be addictive and it makes more sense to treat this with understanding of the physiology as opposed to locking up cigarette smokers as criminals.

  15. 15
    David Duff says:

    “If someone has an addiction, they can make choices”.  Hurrah, we can agree on that!  But until the quacks can point to something physical and prove beyond doubt that it is a *cause* of addiction – do not hold your breath waiting! – then it will remain a matter of individual character which, annoyingly to the ‘psycho-babblers’, remains utterly free from any of their daft theories or prescriptions.  We are not automata, we have free will even if it is restricted inside our personality.
     
    I leave the last word to you, Ron, because I’m off to bed.
     
     
     

  16. 16
    Ron Chusid says:

    They can make choices, but the physiology of the disease has considerable impact on that ability which must be considered.

    Point to something physical? I suggest you look into neurochemistry before making such off the wall statements.

    Here’s a fairly simple article on the subject. There is considerably more on this in the literature.

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