Adding another tragic dimension to timeless musician Prince’s recent, untimely death, investigators have announced they are now looking into the possibility that the singer overdosed on the opioid Percocet.
Just six days before collapsing at his home in Minneapolis, Prince reportedly required a shot of Narcan, an opiate antagonist, after passing out aboard his private airplane. CNN is also now reporting that Prince had opioid medication on him at the time of his death, further fueling speculation that the plague of opioid overdose spreading across the United States did in fact claim one of our preeminent musicians.
Even as the Center for Disease Control releases new guidelines for physicians prescribing opioids, and President Barack Obama has aimed to focus the nation’s attention on the crisis, as many as 55 Americans continue to die everyday from overdosing on opioids.
This death rate has more than quadrupled since 2001, falling on the backs of largely middle and lower class, middle-aged rural Americans. The opioid crisis has undoubtedly reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the country, and Prince’s death would only reaffirm the need for dramatic action.
Percocet is just one of a class of drugs that people take either on prescription to relieve pain or obtain illegally to qualm an addiction. Heroin, morphine, and demerol are all opiates as well, but much of the current crisis revolves around legal opioids like Percocet that are initially prescribed but leave the user with an addiction that forces them to turn to heavier dosages. In large quantities, opioids induce overdose, which can lead to death, if an opiate-antagonist like Narcan is not applied.
Opioids cause your body to slow down and, in large enough quantities, will essentially shut down your entire system. Your heart rate and breathing decrease until you pass out, at which point it is possible to die unless someone arrives with the antidote. An opiate antagonist almost instantly disables the active substances in opioids, and an overdosed patient quickly returns to consciousness. While Narcan works remarkably well, overdose obviously remains an incredible challenge that kills far too many.
Prince’s tragic end may help bring into even clearer focus the tragic scope of the national opioid crisis. It will certainly never obscure why we loved him so much in the first place.