Prince, Paupers and Opioid Overdose

Posted · 10 Comments

Iconic rock star Prince died on April 21 at the age of 57. According to numerous media reports, the likely cause of death was opioid overdose. According to reports, on the way back from a concert a week before his death, Prince’s plane made an emergency landing and Prince was administered Narcan by EMTS to revive him from a Percocet overdose.

Apparently, Prince lived with chronic hip and ankle pain as a result of repeatedly jumping from heights during his act.  In 2010 he had hip replacement surgery. He was prescribed Percocet to deal with continuing pain. Although Prince “partied” in his youth, he was known in recent years for his “clean living” and was not known to abuse drugs.

So, how could Prince, an extremely wealthy individual with access to the best medical care, die of an iatrogenic illness (an illness caused by his medical care)?  Most likely, like the vast majority of people in pain, he trusted that doctors were most qualified to treat his pain.  The reality is that most prescription painkillers are prescribed by primary care physicians whose medical school training included less than two hours of training on pain. Primary care physicians get most of their “education” about pain from pharmaceutical company representatives. Most physician pain specialists are anesthesiologists, who are trained to numb pain, not investigate and remediate its causes.  As one astute physician told me, most anesthesiologists are not even trained to work on conscious patients!

Opioids, in fact, are not a good way to treat chronic pain.  At first, they do reduce pain. However, over time most patients develop tolerance, where higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect.  This is because the body produces its own natural painkillers and adapts to the presence of opioids by reducing their production. Increasing doses of opioids result in more side effects and greater risk of addiction and overdose.  Also, when there is reliance on opioids to treat pain, the underlying causes of the pain do not get addressed.

If Prince had used these safer, more effective treatments for his chronic pain he would still be with us:

  • Marijuana – a very effective pain reliever that does not cause overdose. Marijuana can also help prevent development of tolerance in opioid users and help them wean off opioids. (In Minnesota, where Prince lived, it will be legal to treat patients with intractable pain with medical marijuana as of August 1, 2016.)
  • Low level laser therapy – uses infrared light to reduce inflammation and promote tissue healing, which reduces pain.  Proven effective for muscle and joint pain.
  • Massage – helps with muscle soreness, which is the main cause of pain in most pain conditions
  • A therapeutic exercise program – strengthens muscles, reduces stiffness, improves range of motion and lubricates joints, all of which reduces pain
  • Optimized nutrition with vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements

With his immense wealth, Prince had choices about his care. Most pain patients, especially those whose ability to work has been compromised by chronic pain (the paupers in the title of this article) do not have access to the wide range of alternative pain treatments available due to financial constraints. These patients may know about and be open to alternative pain treatments, but their health insurance refuses to pay. They are forced to rely on pharmaceuticals like opioids that do not address the cause of their pain and pose grave risks to their health.

Please sign my petition on asking President Obama and Congress to pass a law requiring health insurance to pay for all proven treatments for chronic pain and to require physicians to be educated about them.  You can sign the petition here:

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10 Responses to "Prince, Paupers and Opioid Overdose"
  1. Mary says:

    You don’t know that is what happened. So don’t speculate.

  2. Barb Chlumsky says:

    Great! In August he could use pot. Is this a crazy country or what? Even if those other things work, they are only for the wealthy. This is a terrible article. My late husband survived a glioblastoma only to live in intractable pain for 28 years. We did all of the above. There are millions of chronic pain patients who do okay on narcotics. The government doesn’t want people to know this.

  3. Nancy Currence says:

    Thus article really didn’t make sense. He would still be alive if he had smoked Marjuana that will be available in August. I have chronic pain and have tried everything and the things you mentioned don’t work.. Tramadol helps sometime. I’ll take sometimes!

  4. Lori says:

    The gov. just wants to stop the use of pain meds. Well they need to make marijuana legal in all 50 states or they are going to have people turning to the streets to get what they need to stop there pain and are going to have even more deaths on there hands.

  5. LibertyInStyle says:

    No way. The DEA has screwed chronic pain sufferers enough because of Obama.

  6. Lia says:

    I have been in chronic pain 30 years. Most times treated with opiates except the past 3 years. It was a very difficult concept to make my brain understand that i wasn’t going to get instant gratification. I’ve learned to accept that I may go days in a row, or weeks, in a pain crisis. It’s really hard because I have no access to medical care except emergency situations. And doctors won’t treat severe pain with opiates in the er any longer. So my only choice is to deal with the pain.

  7. Robin Knipp says:

    Falling for the lies and propaganda perpetuated by the government, politicians, DEA, CDC and the media! It’s not a war on drugs it’s really a war on chronic pain patients!
    We will really never know the truth of what Prince died of bc if he did take opioid medication then it will be in his system and even if he died from for example a heart attack or stroke they will still say an opioid over dose. That is what they do to scare the public at large.
    I am a chronic intractable pain patient and I am NOT am addict. Am I dependant on my pain med yes I am. I’m 46 yrs old and have been on pain meds since I was 20 years old when I was diagnosed with crohns disease. 26 years later add fibromyalgia polychondritis many herniated discs from my neck down my back. Spinal stenosis degenerative disc disease osteoporosis a spur in my neck close to my spinal cord and the list goes on.
    I need my opioid medication just to do things healthy people take granted such first getting out of bed in the morning. Taking a shower doing dishes and other household chores fixing myself something to eat and so forth. Nothing will ever completely take all my pain away and I know that but my opioid medication gives me some quality of life and now that is being threatened.
    I already have to jump through hoops to get my medication each month. I go to pain management and bc I do not drive or own my own car I gave to rely on others to get to my appointment. After I get there I have to fill out and sign about 10 pgs of paperwork about the medication I’m taking ex know owing it can cause constipation. I have to fill out a questionnaire about if I’ve gone to the ER to control my pain or another Dr etc. A bunch of crap Is what it is! Then I gotta pee in a cup and then they put a stick in my mouth like those old throw away thermometers they used to take your temperature with but this is to test if you’ve had any alcohol. I’ve signed a 20 pgs contract which includes the gas such as no.popoy seeds which means I have to watch what I eat and can no longer have one of my favorite things a little everything bagel! I am no longer allowed to drive. I cannot take many of the over the counter cold meds and the list continues of my liberties that have been taken away bc my health issues dictate that I need opioid medication to somewhat a quality of life and take care of myself! So people need to GTFO with this all chronic pain patients are addicts and addicted!

  8. Daniel Minchew says:

    I was going to write a long reply here…..But instead let me just say one thing..If someone is telling how good or how bad a treatment is…Then look and see if they have a “Dog in the fight”…In this case Cindy is…….Selling a book….

  9. Yes! Finally someone writes about marijuana addiction treatment.

  10. I just want to mention I’m new to blogging and truly savored you’re website. Probably I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You actually have terrific articles and reviews. Kudos for sharing with us your blog.

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