We are nearing the two-year anniversary of his death, which occurred on April 21, 2016 at his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota. He was 57 years old when he was found unresponsive in an elevator from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid considered to be 50 times more powerful than heroin, and 100 times more powerful than morphine.
Since the release of the toxicology report on Monday, experts have voiced confirmation that the drug was the clear culprit.
“The amount in his blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches,” said Lewis Nelson, M.D. He went on to say that the amount of fentanyl found in Prince’s system was “a pretty clear smoking gun.”
The report stated that the concentration of the drug in Prince’s blood was 67.8 micrograms per liter. Fentanyl fatalities have been reported in people with blood levels ranging from three to 58 micrograms per liter.
Concerns over Fentanyl Use
This news might raise concerns for fentanyl patch users who rely on the drug to manage chronic pain. No doubt, it is a powerful form of treatment and needs to be used exactly as prescribed, and closely monitored.
Although Prince had extremely high levels of the drug in his system, experts confirm that there is no “lethal level” across the board. It takes time for a person to build up tolerance in their body, so a dose that is fatal for one person might be beneficial for another.
In the medical world, fentanyl is used as an anesthetic in hospitals and for long-term pain management in the form of a patch. Veterinarians also use the drug as a form of sedation and general anesthesia for your furry loved ones. Illegally, it has become a common street drug that is sold illicitly as a substitute for heroin. The problem? It’s at least 50 times more powerful. This has resulted in many deaths.
In 2016 alone, 2/3 of the 63,6000 drug-related deaths were a result of opioids, with fentanyl causing more deaths than any other legal or illegal drug. More than 19,000 deaths were at the hand of this drug or a similar one.
Recently, President Donald Trump has launched a major initiative to combat the opioid crisis facing our country today in a movement called “The Crisis Next Door.” He has enlisted the help of many public figures, including baseball legend Darryl Strawberry, who publicly struggled with addiction for years. Today, Mr. Strawberry is 14 years sober and has dedicated his life to combating addiction in this country.
Mr. Strawberry blames the problems on poor home lives, lack of education in the schools and pharmaceutical companies. “They’re making money and people are dying,” he said.
While it’s important that people with chronic pain have access to these medications to manage symptoms, medications need to be monitored and administered responsibly. The death tolls speak for themselves, and something needs to change.
What Can I do if I Rely on Fentanyl for Pain Management?
Fentanyl is a drug that often takes effect quickly, causing feelings of euphoria or extreme relaxation. These effects don’t last long; however, making the drug an easy one to cause addictive forming habits.
Generally, the drug is prescribed to help cancer patients manage chronic pain symptoms. Occasionally, it might be prescribed to patients recovering from surgical procedures.
Good candidates are typically people who are in severe pain, are opioid tolerant or who already use other opioid medications, such as morphine. When using any opioid medication, it is imperative that patients only use the drug exactly as prescribed by their doctors.
If you are using the drug and aren’t getting the pain relief that you need, or don’t like the side effects of the drug, speak with your doctor. Write down questions before you go into the office so you don’t forget to address all of your needs, and don’t leave the office until all of your questions have been addressed. Sometimes you have to advocate for yourself, and when it comes to using powerful drugs to manage pain symptoms, it’s imperative that your questions and needs are addressed.
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