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Overdose Awareness Matters | A Tribute to Prince

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A toxicology report from Prince’s autopsy, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, revealed that “extremely high levels” of the powerful painkiller, Fentanyl, were found in Prince’s system at the time of his death.

All too often, people believe that discussing drug overdose tarnishes the memory of the person who passed. As people standing on the firing line of addiction treatment, we believe that this perspective unknowingly perpetuates the misunderstanding and stigma surrounding overdose.

Overdose awareness matters.

This isn’t about sensationalizing the passing of a great artist, or sensationalizing the tragic experience of overdose. As an organization treating co-occurring disorders, we cannot ignore heartbreaking news like this. Though private about his personal life, Prince was known for very strict policies around alcohol and drugs at Paisley Park, his home in Minnesota. Anyone reading through years’ worth of articles about Prince’s life will find a wealth of comments about his perspective on drugs and alcohol use. He was an adamant teetotaler. Nevertheless, drugs took his life. In 2016, a beloved artist passed away as a result of an addictive prescription opioid. Dozens of others face the same fate every day.

Addiction destroys lives. Opioids can be fatal. Both deserve our respect.

The hope that everyone should “just take their meds properly” implies a misunderstanding of addiction. Opioids have a high potential for addiction, even among people who have never struggled with addiction at all. At the time of Prince’s death, nearly 2 million Americans either abused or were dependent on prescription opioids. In 2016, more than 46 people died every day from overdoses involving prescription opioids. The number of people struggling in 2018 is predicted to be even higher. This year, countless Americans will attempt to overcome prescription opioid addiction alone, to no avail. Addiction doesn’t work that way. Without the proper support, people addicted to opioids die.

To Prince’s family members and friends, we continue to offer our heartfelt condolences. Some of us have been where you are.

Many of our staff members have powerful, nostalgic memories of Prince’s music. While the reaction may be to remember only these fond memories, we cannot ignore this truth: When it comes to opioids, remembering what is difficult is just as important. Talking openly about opioid overdose creates awareness and awareness creates change.

Today, when you’re listening to Prince, remember that it is okay to talk openly about overdose. It may be the key to life and happiness for others.