Prince: killed by a painkiller far more potent than heroin

So now we know what killed Prince. He died trying to control the pain in his hips that had become chronically damaged through years of jumping, hyperextending them on stage and running around wearing high heels. Rather than using conventional painkillers such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the usual bedrock of treatment in such cases, he self-administered the powerful opioid drug fentanyl that then rapidly shut down his breathing, leaving him dying alone in a lift in his Paisley Park studio.

The irony is that, while Prince was notorious for being teetotal and anti-drugs (his rules applied to anyone entering his building), he gave himself a drug that is 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 40 to 50 times more potent than pharmaceutical grade, or 100 per cent pure, heroin. Used as an anaesthetic in the 1960s, it was introduced for more widespread clinical use in the mid-1990s, and is now thought to be the most commonly used synthetic opioid in clinical practice. Unfortunately, along with its dramatic potency comes significant risk. Just as with all other opioid drugs, fentanyl can suppress the breathing centres in the brain, especially in someone who is either not used to taking it, or who catastrophically misjudges the dose being taken. Standard practice is that it is not prescribed for someone who has not taken opioid drugs before and even then only extremely carefully.

If reports are to be believed, Prince was flirting very dangerously with opiate drugs and their effects. Several American media outlets reported shortly before his death that he had been struggling with painkiller addiction — and fentanyl is at the top of this particular league — as well as having been treated with the drug Narcan, usually used to reverse the effects of overdoses of opioids. He had also reportedly been using a walking stick to help him with his hip problem, although he was never seen in public using it.

Unlike the long list of rock stars who succumbed to the effects of opioid drugs used for recreational purposes, Prince appears to have either gradually developed an increasing tolerance and need for fentanyl over some time, or accidentally got his dosage wrong with catastrophic consequences. Unfortunately he’s not alone. Unintentional fentanyl overdoses appear to be steadily increasing and in America alone in late 2013 and 2014 over 700 fentanyl-related overdoses were reported to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

As far as street drugs are concerned, fentanyl is usually cheaper than heroin and so drug dealers often lace heroin with it to boost their profits, creating a potentially lethal mix in the process to unwary users. Opioid addicts often prefer fentanyl alone, as it gives a very rapid high and is so powerful, but are playing with their lives whenever they take it.

When used correctly in a clinical setting it can be a source of huge comfort to patients (such as those suffering cancer pain, for example), but Prince has highlighted the other side of opioids in the most extreme way possible. This king of trend-making music fell victim to a different trend, this time from a medicine packet.


  • Judie Bruno

    Pain killed Prince. Please start asking some real questions like are any drug addicts no longer abusing drugs with these policies because we know that Prohibition does not work? The country is so concerned over the raise in heroin addiction and you will find, if you really look, that the raise is directly connected to these policies because if a drug addict can’t get the pills they want, they will and are turning to heroin and now our government is supporting the Drug Cartels who will get a drug addict anything they want just as the “Mob’s” did for alcohol. Did we learn nothing from history?

    Why is the life of a drug addict more important than the lives of those who are in pain? Why are politicians acting as doctors in the decisions of what is the best way to treat us?

    Mothers can no longer care for their children and bread winners no longer able to support their families. Who is going to pay for that care and where will that money come from? Who is going to care for those like myself who strive to stay independent and live within the boundaries of our disabilities but can no longer do so without the pain relief we need?

    Health Care in this country is going to fail under these policies and it must when doctors refuse to take on patients who are in pain, clinic are closing and good doctors can no longer treat their patients in the way they know is best without fear of prosecution? Who are they going to blame for this? Obama Care? Someone must be blamed for the failure of our health care system to deal with those who are in pain.

    Chronic Pain is a disability and we are being discriminated against because of those who will and do abuse drugs just like any religion or race who is discriminated against because of the actions of a few. We need someone to stand for us, talk about us, do something for us in this losing war on drugs.

    We are told that 13% of Veteran’s abuse drugs but what about the 87% who need relief from pain and now can’t get that relief? Chronic Pain can and does kill and those who can no longer deal with a life in pain 24/7 will take their own lives and Veterans are the most vulnerable after the horrors of war. America makes these Veterans and makes the pain they now live with and yet we are turning our backs on them and telling them there is nothing we can do for the pain they are in.

    Why aren’t pain patients given the same rights as others to decide what is the best care for their problems? Politics needs to stay out of our relationship between our doctors and the care we need.

    Please do your jobs, do it right, look into the problems these policies are making that no one will talk about because of the fear of supporting drug addicts but we are NOT drug addicts, we are patients who need help.

    Please look into the politics of all of this as we know the reasons behind this attack on pain medications after losing the war on Marijuana, which will become legal in this country, in order to validate their existence and the billions of dollars wasted in this losing war on drugs are now attacking those who are in pain. Look into the big pharmacies and the fight against them and yes, they need to be held responsible for never finding cures but only drugs that mask the symptoms to make more money but taking all of this out on those who’s only sin is that they are in pain, is not the right way to fight any of these injustices.

    Please, think of the quality of life of those who are suffering in pain and think of your families, your parents, your children and how you would feel if they were suffering in pain and told there is nothing that can be done.

    Help us, help the millions of American’s both Veterans and civilians alike who are actually being tortured because of these policies. Please look at all sides of this war on drugs and the dangers of drug abuse but remember, there are millions of us who need relief from our pain. They can’t fix the problems, can’t give us what we need to live with any kind of quality of life without the pain medications that are available so why are they torturing us?