Former drug addict Russell Brand has paid a tribute to Amy Winehouse, saying addiction should be treated as a potentially fatal disease.

Russell met her on the Camden pub scene a number of years ago, and said at first he thought she was ‘just some twit in a pink satin jacket shuffling round bars’.

He said when he spoke to her she was ‘sweet and peculiar, but most of all vulnerable’.

By chance Russell saw her perform with Paul Weller at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, and had an epiphany.

In the piece posted on his website he wrote: “Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness.”

Russell has given frank accounts of his battle to overcome drug addiction, and said loved ones will always fear getting a phone call with the worst news possible.

He wrote: “Addiction is a serious disease; it will end with jail, mental institutions or death. Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today.

“We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease. Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s (Cobain) or Jimi’s (Hendrix) or Janis’s (Joplin), some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation, but as a disease that will kill.”