The death of musician Prince is not recent by modern press standards, but it’s still something that many are discussing. Not just because of the sadness that results from losing such an influential artist, but also because his death may be an indicator as to just how bad the drug problem has become in this country. Prince had been a beloved musician for decades, and his passing came as a shock to all. But what we failed to realize while processing this was that overdose deaths are always shocking—no matter what the status of the victim may be. And with the death of Prince, perhaps more attention just might be given to the growing fentanyl epidemic.
It is scary to think of just how often the word “epidemic” has been rightfully used to describe various drugs in recent months. Opioids, benzos, heroin—now, on top of all these, the fentanyl epidemic is gaining speed. Were it not for the loss of Prince, it is likely that few outside the recovery community would even be talking about the issue. This does not mean there is a “silver lining” to Prince’s death, for this term seems greatly out of place in such a context. Nonetheless, it does seem as if the singer’s fate can at least generate some much needed discussion about the current fentanyl trend.
We will follow a similar format here as we did for our articles about Amy Winehouse’s tragic death and Ronda Rousey’s recovery. We will begin by discussing why Prince was so incredibly meaningful to the music world before discussing what happened and what we can learn from it. Now that the world has had an appropriate period of time in which to mourn, the time has come for us to do what we can to aid the discussion about addiction in the hopes that fewer instances like this occur among our nation’s populace in the future.
The Legendary Career of Prince
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis to two jazz musicians. By the time he was 17, he was already beginning to carry out the family’s musical legacy with his first demo. It wasn’t long before he had signed with Warner Bros. and, within a few years, was already gaining speed for his incredible blend of rock, funk, R&B and new wave. He became known for early songs such as “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” but his fame hit a new level in 1980 with the release of Dirty Mind. He soon opened for Rick James before appearing on Saturday Night Live and opening for the Rolling Stones the following year in anticipation of his next album, Controversy.
In fact, 1981 was a big year for him for a few other reasons as well. This is when he started the Time with Morris Day. By 1982 he had churned out yet more hit singles, two of the most notable being the nuclear protest song “1999” and the incredibly catchy “Little Red Corvette.” In 1984, the semi-autobiographical hit film Purple Rain spurred the popularity of songs such as “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry.” Soon after, Prince’s song “Darling Nikki” inadvertently inspired Tipper Gore to push for parental advisory warnings on records with explicit lyrics.
As the years continued, Prince continued to appear in films, and even topped the charts with “Batdance,” a song recorded for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. By 1993, Prince had recorded so much music that his label could not keep up with everything. The singer became rebranded as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” when he changed his name to an image known as the “Love Symbol” as an act of protest against the studio for failing to release his music in a timely manner. But no matter the strength of his rebellious spirit, he could not protest with silence. He continued to record chart-topping music until reclaiming his original name in 2000. In the meantime, custom fonts had to be used for any print outlets who wanted to use the Love Symbol in their articles on the singer.
In the years until he reclaimed his name, Prince’s output of work grew more than ever. Not only did he work on his own music, but he collaborated and/or performed with numerous other artists such as Chaka Khan, George Clinton and Lenny Kravitz. After he reclaimed his name, he found himself pulled toward religion. He also became very involved with his fans, going as far as to ask Kevin Smith to host an unreleased documentary in which their responses to his latest album at the time (One Nite Alone…Live!) were recorded. Over the next few years, Prince would play at Super Bowl XLI, Coachella, The Tonight Show, and numerous other venues. He continued releasing new music, based on everything from his maturing worldview to the Minnesota Vikings. Among his last projects were the song “Baltimore” (based on the death of Freddie Gray) and the two-part album Hit n Run Phase One and Phase Two.
The Singer’s Battles with Addiction
To the rest of the world, the fentanyl overdose that killed Prince was sudden. According to Yahoo! Music, however, he had struggled with addiction for some time. At least, that is how the story has been framed by multiple sources. The issue revolves around Prince’s use of Percocet that, according to CNN, the artist did not abuse recreationally. Instead, one of Prince’s half-siblings indicates that he used the drug for decades prior to his death, but he acquired it legally and only used it to handle the stress of performance.
Assuming this to be true, we may still see some signs that all was not right in Prince’s world leading up to his death. On April 15, one day after playing a show despite saying that he was unwell and suffering from influenza, Prince became unresponsive and his plane had to be grounded mid-flight. The plane landed in Illinois, where Prince was reportedly given Narcan for an apparent overdose of prescription pain medication. He left against doctors’ orders, but it was mere days before he appeared to be back to his old self.
Unbeknownst to the public at that time, however, Prince did appear to be concerned about addiction. Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a specialist from California who particularly specializes in treating addicts in need of pain management, was called the day prior to Prince’s death. He was not able to immediately meet with the singer, but he sent his son Andrew in his place the very next day to speak with Prince about a treatment plan for opioid addiction.
After his arrival, the younger Kornfeld called the police and informed them that he had found Prince deceased. It was not until after this that the public received the information that Prince had passed away due to fentanyl overdose. He had been dead for hours by that time, and could not be revived. The general consensus was that this was not a suicide, but rather an unfortunate accident. After his death, disgusting news began to surface as more than 700 people attempted to lay claim to his estate.
What We Can Learn from This Loss
Fentanyl, the drug that killed Prince, has been murdering people in growing rates all across the country. This has especially been a problem in certain states. In New Jersey, more people were killed in the first half of 2015 than in all of 2014. According to Carl Kotowski, one of the DEA’s special agents in their Newark office:
“With heroin, an addict can possibly survive an overdose. But with fentanyl there are often no do-overs or second chances. All you need is a very small amount and it can be fatal.”
Fentanyl was once solely based upon prescriptions, but it has become increasingly common as an illegally shipped drug. So while death rates from heroin and prescription opioids have been on the rise, overdose death rates due to fentanyl have specifically been rising with little to stand in their way. It has been said that fentanyl is more than 25 times as deadly as common heroin, and that reversal medications such as Narcan are less effective against it. Moreover, fentanyl has been used to lace heroin, ensuring that addicts are never completely certain when they are receiving the drugs. And since it is more potent, traffickers do not have to move it in the same quantities, making their job much easier. In short, fentanyl is a dangerous drug that is easy for smugglers to ship, and this is something that should most certainly worry the average drug addict.
Regardless of how addicts may be receiving their fentanyl, it cannot be denied that the drug is dangerous. Prince was not an exception, but rather a warning to all who abuse the drug that they have no idea what they are getting themselves into when they choose fentanyl as a drug of choice. We may mourn Prince’s death, but what is the point if we are not doing everything in our power to combat the drug that killed him? Fentanyl cannot be allowed to roam free on our streets. And until lawmakers are able to quell the spread, we need treatment centers to treat the affected.
Do not let fentanyl ruin your life, or the life of anyone you love. If you or someone you care about is in the grips of this dangerous and seemingly unstoppable opioid, contact us today for more information on our treatment programs. This drug can be deadly, but we at Amethyst Recovery will do everything in our power to stop the addict’s habits before they get worse. Fentanyl addicts have been waiting for too long. It is time to receive help before it is too late.