Prince’s Death: A greater problem exposed

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By Zarateman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,                          Wikipedia Commons

We have written about the role of substance abuse, addiction and mental health problems as the cause of death in many people in the public eye. Our list includes:  Amy Winehouse, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, and many others. Yet, with Prince’s death we found ourselves waiting, or maybe, not wanting to write the story about Prince and his demise from drugs. At this point, we don’t have any definitive answers as to the exact cause of death, but the story continues to unfold. It looks as though prescription pain killers played a role in his death. As I thought about this, and the failed attempt to bring an intervention together, I wondered if, as a society, we are becoming accustomed to deaths due to addiction and overdose. We all hear about the prescription pain killers and heroin epidemic and those of us who work in substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation understand the link between prescription drug abuse and the switch to street drugs like heroin which relates to the greater control of prescriptions for opioids which have been implemented and cheaper more readily available heroin on the street. It’s no wonder how these two problems came about and are woven together.

Drug abuse is a problem that can no longer be hidden in the shadows of criminality. We need to come to grips with finding real solutions to help people living with addiction as well as preventing addiction. Addiction is in every area of our lives, from the rich and famous to the poor. There are reasons for addiction which need to be identified. The roots may be in the management of physical or mental pain by professionals and by the person. And, the risk lies in the professional and personal misuse of addictive substances which has caused many deaths. We pay the most attention to the public figures like Prince and we ignore the more significant number of drug-related deaths in our communities. These deaths from drugs are unfortunate for both the famous and unknown people. These are lives lost which we could have saved through recognizing the problem and getting the person to treatment before it’s too late.

In the last hours of Prince’s life an intervention was planned which apparently occurred too late.  We will miss his great talent and artistic flair. As we learn more about Prince’s addiction, let’s think about the changes which are needed to bring the problem out into the open and to create access to drug addiction treatment. The heroin epidemic is a facet of the drug addiction problem. Attention must be paid to the entire problem, its causes and the solutions to resolution through prevention and treatment. Why can’t we talk about “the elephant in the room”?

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