The Difference a Day Can Make




News about the cause of Prince’s death was released last week. According to numerous news reports, he died from an overdose of a synthetic opioid called fentanyl, an opioid so potent that it’s measured in micrograms instead of milligrams.

This is the same drug that anesthesiologists and anesthetists get addicted to. It’s such a powerful drug that often the deceased is found with the needle still in his arm.

News stories don’t say how Prince took the medication, only that it was self-administered and that it killed him. Reports didn’t say whether it was prescribed for him or obtained illicitly.

I came of age in the 1980’s and like so many of my friends, loved Prince’s music. He was such a great musician that he managed to remain creative long after the 80’s were done, however.

I remember seeing the clip of Monica Lewinsky hugging President Clinton, and wondering if she chose her hat after listening to his “Raspberry Beret.” I was in recovery from addiction myself by the time New Year’s Eve, 1999 rolled around, so it was one of best New Year’s I’ve ever had. I remembered it, for one thing, and remember listening to the song that night, of course, while we were bracing for the Y2K apocalypse that never came.

Prince had been treated from chronic hip and leg pain, and probably developed addiction as a complication of that treatment. In that regard, he is just like so many of my patients. They never intended to become addicted. Prince, as a Jehovah’s Witness, would theoretically be at lower risk for addiction than many people, since he didn’t drink alcohol or use illicit drugs. But like so many other people, he appears to have developed addiction during the treatment of pain.

Saddest of all the information I read in news reports is that Prince had an appointment with an addiction medicine doctor the day after his death, to get help with his opioid addiction. By now, it’s well-known that Dr. Kornfield, an addictionologist in California, sent his son with a Suboxone film intended for Prince, but by the time the son arrived, Prince was dead. Prince supposedly had an appointment with a Minnesota addiction medicine doctor the next morning.

One day later, he could have had the help he needed. This underlines the seriousness of the opioid use disorder.

If you have this disease, learn from Prince. Anyone can develop the disease of addiction, even a musical genius. So get help now. Tomorrow may be too late.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alan Wartenberg MD on June 10, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    I am appalled that nobody around him (or maybe even Prince himself) could figure out that there were docs WAY closer to home who could have helped, and that this hotshot doc from California allowed his non-doctor son to carry “one suboxone film” to do what? administer it to him without a medical history or exam?? Something very fishy with this, and no more or less tragic than all the other lives wasted, in large part because of public prejudice towards MAT, further fueled by 12step true believers.


    • Posted by kevin on June 13, 2016 at 7:51 am

      I was thinking the same thing when I read that about the suboxone film. I figured the doctor would have had to do a full work up and not over the phone and isn’t that liability with his son administering that. Idk I’m not a doctor but I just didn’t understand that


  2. Sometimes it’s the doctors who are not of higher authority to tell a genius musician, “No, we will do it my way because I’m the doctor”. I mean, look at Michael Jackson and the doctor whom gave him his final injection. He was no match to put his foot down to the king of pop. Princes doctor may have made one mistake some time ago and Prince could of held it over his head as a threat to do as he says. But all in all, there’s no reason to argue of what could of been. Only urge the fact that we must help each other to find our recovery and remain abstinence when we do. Opioid addiction is no joke. Just like the author behind “A difference a day makes” said to get the help we need before tomorrow is too late. I too urge everyone to get the help they need. Including myself, for tomorrow may be too late for me too.
    R.I.P. Prince. Your suffering is now over. And you can finally rest comfortable now.


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