The recent controversy over Prince’s death will hopefully catalyze a discussion between patient and doctor in regards to opioid pain treatment. After the accidental overdose of fentanyl by musical legend, Prince Rogers Nelson, the truth about the addictive and fatal effects of opioids is more evident that ever.
According to National Center for Health Statistic, opioid-related overdoses have been on the rise in the past 4 years, increasing by 16% from 2013 to 2014 alone. Another statistic provided by the CDC suggests that nearly 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids in 2014.
A misconception in the realm of deaths and addiction to opioids is the nature in which they are used. A majority of users are not common drug abusers but rather patients trying to cope with pain. More often than not opioid treatment begins as treatment from doctors that turns into a dependency. This dependency can lead to unintended death and overdose as a result of the frequency and dosage.
Opioids affect the brain in several ways, one of which involves breathing. An increase in dosage can result in slowed breathing resulting in death. In addition, when mixed with other drugs such as stimulants the effects of opioids can be masked. If opioid use continues even after the treatment of pain is resolved overdoses can occur as the result of lack of tolerance.
Due to the strong attention attached to the singer’s death a growing understanding of opioid addiction should help remove the stigma attached to drug addiction and overdose. The prevalence of opioid addiction is a growing area of concern, while the media behind Prince is creating awareness it is important to recognize signs of opioid addiction and to prevent yourself from becoming victim.
Opioids should never be mixed with alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, and general anesthetics. Monitor your opioid use to avoid taking doses larger than prescribe or more frequently than prescribed. Finally, ensure that you taking pain medication for solely the reasons prescribed, otherwise you may be abusing your medication.
Despite his battle with opioid addiction, Prince will continue to be applauded for his accomplishments throughout his lifetime. While the opioid addiction remains at large among many Americans hopefully the star’s life will remind us that addiction does not discriminate.