Prince died of an opioid overdose. A tragic and avoidable fate but, even more tragically, one that is becoming increasingly common in the United States. Some people who overdose live on the edge of society – homeless and with no access to good medical care. Prince, by contrast, had several mansions and a number of physicians actively involved in his care, physicians aware of his problem with opiates. In fact, just days before he died, Prince’s airplane had to emergently land because he experienced symptoms of opioid overdose.
With so many physicians at his disposal and so much evidence his opioid use was spiraling out of control, did Prince die because his physicians were particularly bad at handling his needs?
Sadly, the answer is probably no. Although I have no inside knowledge of Prince’s care, from what I can tell, his physicians are not very different from the ones caring for many people with opioid addiction. Many, if not most, physicians are simply not prepared to offer proper help to patients struggling to control their use of prescription narcotics.
The best evidence I have to back up this claim comes from a study published January in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The research team was led by Marc Larochelle from Boston Medical Center. Larochelle looked at what happened to patients after they experienced a nonfatal opioid overdose like Prince did in the airplane ride a few days before his death. Specifically, he assessed whether their doctors reduced the dose of their opioid medications. He found that doctors did not reduce people’s narcotic doses very much.
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