Four years ago, the world lost one of its greatest music icons. Prince Rogers Nelson was just 57 when he died of an accidental overdose at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota. Perhaps the most high profile case in America’s opioid crisis, Prince had been using prescription painkillers for chronic hip pain for years. He was actively struggling with opioid addiction.
The day before his passing, on April 20th, a representative for Prince called renowned addiction counselor Dr. Howard Kornfield. They said Prince was dealing with a “grave medical emergency” and needed confidential treatment right away. As Howard Kornfield could not clear his schedule the next day, he sent his son, Andrew Kornfield, on a red-eye flight from San Francisco. Andrew, also an addiction counselor, was set to meet Prince in the early hours of the morning on April 21st to discuss plans for treatment.
But when Andrew arrived, representatives for Prince were unable to find him. After searching for several minutes, they found his body in an elevator. Paramedics arrived and pronounced him dead at the scene. The autopsy showed an “exceedingly high amount of fentanyl” in the singer’s body.
Whether the fentanyl he overdosed on was prescription or illicit is unknown. Law enforcement in Minnesota filed search warrants for Prince’s Paisley Park estate and for … but this information has not been released to the public.
What can we learn from Prince’s tragic and untimely passing?
1. Seek help at the sign of addiction.
Don’t wait until things have gotten to the point of a “grave emergency.” If you’re struggling, get help now. Tell someone, call a hotline, visit a meeting, or contact your local treatment center. Take action now to save your life or the life of your loved one.
2. Addiction can affect anyone.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you know, how much money you have, or how famous you are: addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. It doesn’t discriminate and no amount of success or fortune can prevent it. If you are struggling or know someone else who might be, don’t assume that just because they are so-and-so or have such-and-such they will be ok. Get them help.
3. Prescription or not, opioids are highly addictive and can be dangerous.
Just because you have been prescribed something, does not mean it is safe nor does it mean it is not addictive. Use caution with any controlled substance, use only what you need and never take it recreationally.
4. Buying any drugs off the street is a high risk choice.
If Prince’s pills were bought illicitly, there is no way of knowing what or how much he was taking. Just because a pill says a certain dosage or certain brand, doesn’t mean it actually is if it has been acquired outside a pharmacy. This makes overdoses more likely and can also lead to dangerous concoctions that you would have no way of knowing about.
Prince forever changed our musical landscape. In a statement after his passing, former president Barack Obama said, “Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent.” His death was a tragic and preventable loss. The world will forever miss him and his music.