Did Prince Die From Painkiller Addiction?
By Dr. Mercola
Yesterday I wrote that preventable medical errors and drug side effects are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. I’ve also written numerous articles about the dangers of opioid painkillers in particular.
While most drugs come with a long list of potentially devastating side effects, painkillers tend to be among the most lethal, in large part due to their addictive nature.
Prescriptions for opioid painkillers have risen by 300 percent over the past 10 years,1and deaths from overdosing on these drugs now far surpass those from illicit street drugs. Sadly, legendary musician Prince appears to be yet another victim of the opioid epidemic.2
Prince Made Emergency Appointment With Addiction Specialist
It has now come to light that the 911 call from Prince’s Paisley Park estate was made by Andrew Kornfeld, son of Howard Kornfeld, M.D., who runs an addiction clinic in California, specializing in opioid painkiller addiction.3 ,4,5
Dr. Kornfeld is said to have been summoned for an emergency consultation with Prince following an overdose of Percocet, mere days before his untimely death.6Prince was reportedly taking the drug to manage pain associated with a chronic hip problem.
Unfortunately, by the time Dr. Kornfeld’s son showed up for his appointment with the star, Prince was already dead.
Part of Dr. Kornfeld’s treatment plan for painkiller addicts includes the use of an alternative painkiller buprenorphine7 (sold under the names Suboxone, Subutex, Zubsolv, and Bunavail), which he says can relieve pain with fewer risks than other opioids.
White House Supports Expanding Use of Gentler, Less Addictive Opioid
According to STAT, an online health newsletter,8 buprenorphine “is effective in treating both chronic pain and withdrawal because it’s less likely to cause euphoric highs or overdoses and because withdrawal from it is gentler than with opioids.”
While buprenorphine has been notoriously difficult to get, President Obama has proposed increasing the use of this drug to combat growing addiction rates.9 The drug is heavily regulated, and doctors initially had to take an 8-hour training course in the use of the drug before they were allowed to prescribe it.
According to STAT: “The White House wants to double the number of doctors certified to prescribe buprenorphine and is even considering allowing non-physicians to prescribe the drug.” Opponents worry that the drug may end up being overprescribed by doctors without expertise in addiction.
Ironically, this kind of inexperience is in part why we now have such an epidemic of opioid abuse. As noted by Forbes,10 the recommendation to enforce mandatory training for doctors prescribing opioids has been brought forth more than once.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejected the training mandate in large part because the American Medical Association (AMA) lobbied against it.
But in light of the growing epidemic of abuse, it seems quite clear that many doctors do not have the prerequisite understanding to safely prescribe opioid painkillers, often underestimating their addictive nature and the risks for lethal overdosing.
Training for opioid prescribers is now being considered yet again, and a spokesperson has indicated that the FDA will now support it.11 An expert panel is expected to issue recommendations to the FDA sometime in the near future.
Doctors Unwilling to Take Responsibility for Their Role in Opioid Epidemic
Strangely enough, the AMA is even opposed to laws that would require prescribing doctors to check databases before issuing a prescription for a narcotic painkiller, to ensure the patient is not receiving the same or similar prescription from another doctor. According to The New York Times:12
“Doctors say measures like checking prescription databases take up more time in days already filled with bureaucratic duties, and many express ideological concerns about government’s reach into medicine.
[E]xperts say many doctors believe that their practices and their patients are not responsible for the opioid problem.”
If the problem was not created by prescribing doctors (recall prescriptions for opioids have surged 300 percent in the last decade), then who’s to blame for the current scourge of opioid addiction and deaths?
Americans use the most opioids of any nation — twice the amount used by Canadians, who come in second place in terms of prescriptions. In Alabama, which has the highest opioid prescription rate in the U.S., there are 143 prescriptions for every 100 people!13
Clearly doctors bear a significant responsibility for creating this situation. Surgeons also need to reevaluate current practices of routinely sending surgical patients home with a powerful painkiller, regardless of whether they really need it or not.14
Bizarrely one of Prince’s former band members called ‘Doctor’ now runs a Prince tribute band.
Drug Companies Should Be Held Accountable
The drug companies that create and sell these drugs also shoulder a major part of the blame, and really should be held accountable — especially when lying about the benefits and risks of their drugs. As noted by the Organic Consumers Association:15
“Pharma fostered the opioid addiction epidemic in four ways. It introduced long-acting opioids like OxyContin that could be crushed and snorted, or shot for heroin-like highs.
Industry also changed pain condition guidelines so that opioids were the first choice in conditions like lower back pain — conditions that never used to justify prescribing opioids.
Pharma also pushed and promoted the long-term use of opioids though no studies show such use effective or safe according to respected medical groups, including the Cochrane Collection.
And finally, the industry misinformed doctors, patients and the public, claiming that only “some” people become addicted to narcotics — when in fact narcotics are addictive, period.
In fact, until Pharma’s opioid revival, narcotics were administered only after surgery, accidents and for palliative care in the chronic and terminally ill.”
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