“The mentality and behavior of drug addicts and alcoholics is wholly irrational until you understand that they are completely powerless over their addiction and unless they have structured help, they have no hope.”
Russell Brand might not be considered a household name here in America, but the English comedian, actor, radio host, author, and activist has long been one of the most outspoken and unique voices in the conversation about drugs. Whatever you think of Brand’s acerbic wit and eccentric attitude, very few can deny that his perspective on drug-use, drug-users, and the war on drugs is anything but interesting.
Russell Edward Brand was born June 4th, 1975 in Essex, England. When Brand was 8, his mother contracted uterine cancer, and just one year later, breast cancer. While she underwent treatment, Brand lived with relatives. When he was 14, he suffered from bulimia nervosa. When he was 16, he left home because of disagreements with his stepfather. This is when Brand first started to experiment with drugs.
Weed, speed, ecstasy, coke, LSD, crack, alcohol, and heroin… Russell took to drugs almost immediately. Stating in one interview, “I don’t know if it’s to do with my personal circumstances, a single mum and feeling like we didn’t have a lot of money,” he said. “I felt alienated and unhappy. For me, I couldn’t cope with being me.” At his worst, Brand began to fear his lifestyle would cost him his life. Being told that if he were to continue the path he was on, in six month time, he would either be dead, in prison, or in an asylum. It was at the age of 27, the same age Amy Winehouse was when she died of a drug-overdose, that Brand decided to get clean.
Russell and Amy were close friends and her untimely death had a powerful impact on the comedian. Writing an article about the experience, Brand noted, “What was so painful about Amy’s death is that I know that there is something I could have done. I could have passed on to her the solution that was freely given to me. Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple; it actually is simple but it isn’t easy; it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”
Brand has lately become a vocal activist in the growing discussion of how we view and treat drug addiction globally. Releasing a documentary in 2012 entitled: Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery – Brand made the film in the hopes of having a sympathetic look at the reality of alcoholism and addiction, and to redefine the way society and governments regard addiction and addicts. “I want a revolution in the way we regard addiction as a disease, the way we treat drug addicts,” Brand said in an interview. “It is difficult to feel sympathy for these people. It is difficult to regard some bawdy drunk and see them as sick and powerless. It is difficult to suffer the selfishness of a drug addict who will lie to you and steal from you and forgive them and offer them help. Can there be any other disease that renders its victims so unappealing? Would Great Ormond Street be so attractive a cause if its beds were riddled with obnoxious little criminals that had “brought it on themselves?”
Russell himself has been clean for over a decade now, but readily admits that he is far from past his addiction. “The reason I can’t have drugs or drink today is because I know that I can’t manage it,” Brand continued. “As a drug addict, you have to accept that you can never have a drink or drugs again.” Brand later commented in another interview, “It is 10 years since I used drugs or drank alcohol and my life has improved immeasurably. I have a job, a house, a cat, good friendships and generally a bright outlook. The price of this is constant vigilance because the disease of addiction is not rational.”