Monday, June 06, 2016

OPIOID EPIDEMIC - Prince's Overdose

"Prince's fentanyl overdose gives new urgency to opioid epidemic" PBS NewsHour 6/2/2016


SUMMARY:  The opioid epidemic sweeping the nation once more took center stage after law enforcement officials revealed that music icon Prince's death in April was due to an accidental overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid far stronger than morphine.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Sharon Stancliff of the Harm Reduction Coalition for more on how we can reduce opioid fatalities with better addiction treatment.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The opioid epidemic and the problems of treatment.

Law enforcement officials told the Associated Press and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune today that music legend Prince died from an accidental opioid overdose in April.  The superstar, according to reports, self-administered fentanyl, a synthetic opioid painkiller much stronger than morphine.

It's also been reported that Prince had an earlier overdose, and was then revived with a dose of a drug called Narcan.  That treatment, and Prince's later attempt to get help from an addiction specialist, have cast a spotlight on the question of treatment for addiction.

Here to discuss this with us is Dr. Sharon Stancliff, medical director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national organization focusing on advocacy and the health care of those struggling with drug use.

Doctor, when you hear fentanyl, a fairly strong drug in all the classes of drugs, what does that make you think of what Prince was going through?

DR. SHARON STANCLIFF, Medical Director, Harm Reduction Coalition:  Well, I understand Prince had a chronic pain problem, and fentanyl is often prescribed either as a patch or preparations that dissolve in the mouth for chronic pain.

We don't know if he had a prescription for that, but that's extremely likely.  We also are hearing a lot about fentanyl in the news because there is illicitly manufactured fentanyl found in many parts of the country either mixed into heroin or sold as heroin.

So, we're hearing about a lot of fentanyl overdoses.  They could be from pain management or they could be from illicit preparations.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  When you see these stories and hear about these stories across the country, we're seeing, we're hearing more about people who get addicted while they're being treated for chronic pain.


Well, anyone who takes an opioid on a repeated basis daily will become dependent upon the opioid.  Many people will be able to, when the pain stops, taper off of the opioid and go on as though nothing had happened.

Others find that it's really hard to taper off, and once tapered off, they continue to have craving for that — an opioid for weeks, months, even years, and so that's why we have a variety of medications to treat opioid addiction or opioid use disorders.

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