Prince, Fentanyl, and Opioids: One Year Later

Prince-wax-figureTomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the death of singer, songwriter, and musician Prince. In some ways, it seems like only yesterday, yet in others, it seems like so long ago.

Prince died from an accidental overdose of the prescription painkilling drug fentanyl, a drug known as an opioid or opiate. Prince might the famous person to die this way, but he’s far from the only one.

Overdoses related to prescription opioids killed more than 183,000 Americans from 1999 to 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioid overdoses killed 15,000 in 2015 alone.

Fentanyl and other opioids are curious drugs. On one hand, they can provide much-welcomed relief for pain related to many conditions. On the other hand, users can become addicted to opioids quickly.

These addictions do not spare anyone. An opioid addict can be rich and famous, like Prince, or middle class, or poor. You can find opioid addicts of all ages, income levels, and geographic areas. There is no typical opioid abuser, just as there is no typical addict or alcohol abuser.

The fact that many opioids/opiates are legal doesn’t make them any safer. In fact, some people may believe that they’re safer because doctors prescribed them in the first place. Many opioids are prescriptions, which means that people have a limited supply. But addiction is powerful, and many people go through great lengths to get their fixes.

This can involve doctor shopping, a practice in which people go to different doctors to acquire different prescriptions. It can involve stealing prescription drugs from others. It can involve buying prescription drugs illegally. It can also involve using other, similar drugs that are easier to buy.

One of these drugs is heroin. As a consequence, great numbers of people abuse heroin. Heroin users, too, are not a unified group. People with problems related to heroin and other opioids could be old or young, rich or poor, male or female. They could even be Prince.