Prince Rogers Nelson – known to millions simply as the musician Prince – died recently from an accidental fentanyl overdose at the age of 57. Questions abounded from his worldwide fan base when the shocking news broke.
After Prince’s autopsy results were released, many people wondered:
“What is fentanyl, anyway?”
Despite its meteoric rise on the illegal drug scene in North America, fentanyl remains an unknown quantity to many people. It is, without any doubt, one of the most dangerous drugs available in the world today.
Fentanyl in a Nutshell
In layman’s terms, fentanyl is an extremely powerful, opioid-based, synthetic painkiller. When it enters the bloodstream, its pain relief effects are almost immediate, but are also relatively short lasting, compared with other opioid-based substances.
Neurologically, fentanyl attaches itself to certain receptors in the brain and spinal column, vastly curtailing both physical pain and a human being’s emotional response to pain. When used legally and clinically, it is very effective at reducing severe pain that occurs in cancer patients, as well as other individuals who suffer from very serious physical ailments.
Of course, fentanyl is no stranger to those who work in drug and alcohol rehab centers. It’s also well known to law enforcement officials across the country.
In areas like Vermont, New Orleans, Pennsylvania, South Florida, Sacramento, Ohio, New Jersey – and just about everywhere in between – fentanyl abuse is responsible for an increasing number of deaths over the past decade or so.
Even those who are prescribed fentanyl for legitimate reasons can easily overdose on the medicine, for one obvious reason: fentanyl packs a serious punch on the potency scale.
Prince’s Death Shines a Spotlight on Fentanyl
Fentanyl abuse and fentanyl addiction became national news when Prince’s autopsy report was released by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in early June. Until then, many Americans had never heard of fentanyl.
What they discovered is that fentanyl abuse is a serious national health concern. It is more readily available in 2016 than at any time since the drug was first synthesized in 1960, and while fentanyl abuse by itself has not yet reached epidemic levels, it is helping to fuel a national crisis of unchecked opioid abuse.
The reasons fentanyl poses such a serious problem include:
- Deadly potency: There’s a very fine line between a pain-killing dose and a lethal dose.
- Legal Availability: Hospitals and doctors have been prescribing fentanyl more regularly in recent years, in various forms, such as a pill, patch, spray, lozenge, and even as a lollipop.
- Illegal Availability: Anyone with an Internet connection who knows where to look can “order” fentanyl online, usually from China and Mexico.
- Drug Mixing: Addicts are overdosing at increasing rates because drug dealers are lacing heroin and other similar substances with the stronger fentanyl.
In the case of Prince, it appears he fell victim to the first item on the above list.
Prince was suffering from various health problems at the time of his death. It has since been revealed that he had debilitating hip and ankle pain and refused to have surgery on either area.
He was also born with epilepsy and had periodic seizures throughout his life. Despite Prince’s flamboyant style, chronic stage fright was also a problem for the wildly talented singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.
Several media outlets are reporting that Prince developed a serious drug habit, like so many musicians seem to do. Prince apparently became dependent on opioid-based narcotics as early as the 1990’s to deal with all of the aforementioned issues.
It’s not surprising that Prince turned to fentanyl later in his life. Fentanyl is often used to treat those with chronic pain who have developed a tolerance to other opioids.
Powerful Drug, Powerful Problem
Unfortunately, the same potency which makes fentanyl an effective painkiller is also what makes it such a deadly drug. Prince likely was trying to take an appropriate dose to deal with his pain, and simply made a dosage miscalculation.
He is hardly the only one to do so, although it is illicit drug use that more often leads to fentanyl fatalities.
Emergency rooms across the country are delivering grisly tales of fentanyl-laced heroin overdoses, where addicts show up DOA with needles still hanging out of their arms. Officials at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed recently that fentanyl is increasingly winding up on the black market via theft, illegitimate prescriptions, and illegal dispersal by doctors and their patients.
Every available statistic on fentanyl abuse indicates that its use is rapidly increasing. While South Florida has been particularly hard hit by fentanyl addiction, this is a continental problem.
- Nearly all provinces in Canada are reporting huge spikes in fentanyl overdoses.
- In 2010, most US states reported less than 100 fatal fentanyl overdoses; in 2015, nearly every state reported several hundred, and several states with large populations eclipsed 1,000 fentanyl overdose deaths.
- Early statistics in 2016 indicate most states are on track to surpass those numbers.
- Several DEA seizures of black market fentanyl have been tied directly to Mexican drug trafficking groups.
“Fentanyl is much deadlier than flakka,” declared Raynette Kornickey, spokesperson for South Florida’s Drug Enforcement Agency. “It’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 80 times stronger than morphine. A minute amount will kill you. It is being mixed with heroin, flakka and other drugs, and no one knows what they are taking. It’s scary.”
Help for Fentanyl Addiction
If you’re struggling with an addiction of any kind, give us a call today at 1-888-711-0354, or feel free to contact us online about any of our addiction treatment programs. South Florida is no stranger to fentanyl addiction, or to opioid addiction in general, and Cornerstone Recovery Center knows these issues well. We have many trained specialists on staff that can answer any questions you may have. Communication is always confidential.