Amidst rumors of Prince’s alleged cause of death, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Minnesota released the heavily-awaited autopsy report for Prince, declaring his death the cause of “Accidental Fentanyl Toxicity”. While many still may be in disbelief by the report’s findings, this high-profile case of “opioid addiction” is an especially influential example that brings awareness to just how vast addiction is in our society.
The autopsy confirmed that Prince “Self-Administered Fentanyl”, ultimately leading to his death. The Associated Press instigated the release of information after sharing that, through an anonymous source, it was determined that Prince had died of an “Opioid Overdose”, followed by a release by the Minneapolis Star Tribune stating that the pop star died of an “Overdose of Painkillers”. In response, and to quell the ongoing suspicion, it is believed that the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, who is leading the investigation, felt pressured to release the official autopsy.
Though the press has been predicting such an outcome since the star’s untimely death in late April of this year, many fans will be stunned at the declaration that this incomparable icon was the victim of a self-incriminating disease: addiction. While we continue to celebrate his life and his work, this confirmation, we hope, helps a greater number of those in our community to understand that addiction does not discriminate.
As we reported last November in an article entitled “Accidentally Addicted”, prescription medications are responsible for more overdose deaths in the United States than all other drug overdoses combined. This includes Fentanyl, the lethal drug that was found in Prince’s body at the time of his death, and what was determined to ultimately be the cause of death. USA TODAY shared in a recent article that the star was reported to have visited a local pharmacy with a friend the evening before he was found dead in his Paisley Park home.
To those who have dealt with opiate addiction, either themselves or via a loved one, Prince’s story of addiction and death is surprisingly “normal” by today’s standards. His behavior, based on the information that has been released in the press, paints the typical portrait of someone struggling with life-threatening opiate addiction.
Just days prior, his stunned staff called a painkiller addiction specialist to “rescue” Prince from a “grave physical state”, believed to be brought about by his use of opioids. Following that event, his private plane was grounded after his staff described that he had “fallen unconscious from an opioid overdose”. He was revived by the opioid-antidote Narcan, an increasingly popular “rescue-remedy” in the fight against fatal opiate overdose deaths.
Narcan, also known as Naloxone, has been adopted by jurisdictions across the country, and is now available at select pharmacies and drugstores, like CVS and Walgreens, because of its effectiveness in counteracting the lethal effects of opiate overdoses. It has now been famously linked to helping revive heroin addicts as overdoses and deaths related to heroin and other opiates have skyrocketed throughout the nation, markedly increasing year-over-year, claiming 47,055 lives alone in 2014 (the most recently released statistics available). The CDC, one of the governing agencies who release annual reports on accidental overdoses, expects the deaths related to opiates in 2015 and 2016 to far exceed the numbers calculated from 2014.
While there will be a flurry of continuing reports detailing the cause of Prince’s death, his last weeks as told by his staff members is a story that has been told, and lived through hundreds of thousands of times by people and families across our Nation. Addiction – an all-too-often stigmatized disease – can affect anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, social ranking, intellect and beyond. Prince’s death should not be overshadowed by the reasons as to why he died, but should serve as an example to the greater community that addiction does not discriminate.