Senseless drug deaths

Three years ago a medical examiner in Minnesota announced that superstar rocker Prince died of “fentanyl toxicity.”

That is a fancy way of saying he died of a drug overdose. The tweet from the ME’s office went on to say the death was accidental, from a self-administered dose.

USA Today’s story on the cause of death cited the National Institute on Drug Abuse describing fentanyl as a “powerful synthetic opiate analgesic similar to but more potent than morphine. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain, or to manage pain after surgery. It is also sometimes used to treat people with chronic pain who are physically tolerant to opiates.”

Hospitals and Health Network magazine says the overprescription of pain medications is a “national epidemic.” In several states, the mass addictions to opiates will once again be an election issue. Even in small states like West Virginia, there are charges that doctors and pharmacies were reckless in the distribution of drugs like OxyContin and OxyCodone.

Even as pharmacological companies are paying enormous fines for the reckless distribution of such drugs, the deaths continue.

As Prince’s death shows, stars of stage and screen are far from immune to that epidemic.

Prince joined a long list of celebrities whose deaths were drug related. Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley died decades ago — yet their deaths apparently were not warning signals for others. Chris Farley and Kurt Cobain died in the ’90s. In this century, two prominent drug-related deaths were Michael Jackson and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Like many on the above list, Prince’s problem was known by people around him. The week before his death, his private plane made an emergency landing because he was having trouble breathing. One would think some sort of intervention would have been staged and the singer’s life saved. But it didn’t happen.

So, chalk up one more senseless death. It was a terrible waste of a life, as well as a terrible waste of a talent.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.