Prince Opioid Overdose Another Saga of Drug Debate in Music


MINNEAPOLIS—The Strib reported that the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office believed Prince's overdose death was accidental from a self-administered dose of fentanyl. Much of the discussion of Prince has focused on his amazing secret philanthropy and his inspiration as a pop music and cultural, sometimes even political, figure in Minnesota and the world at large. But the discussion is also reminiscent of two other tragic stories still unfolding in history in the United States and other parts of the world: drug overdoses of music stars and the rise of opioid addiction. It's not just heroin.
Image: by Zarateman: Portrait Graffiti in Vitoria-Gasteiz (Spain).

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that, according to a report on Minnesota Public Radio recently, is up to 50 times more potent than heroin and is commonly used by those whose tolerance to other pain medications, often strong opioids, has increased a great deal, but the body weight and other physical factors are still important to the risk of overdose. It's certainly used and abused by those dependent on opioids like heroin. The Drug War Times covered a string of stories related to opioid problems in Minnesota and elsewhere and VICE News and even Drugs Inc., in their "Snitch Cities episode, have discussed a rising market in the illicit drug trade for pure, cheap heroin, even in typical "white" suburbs.
paisley park prince home and studioPhoto by Bobak Ha'Eri: Prince's Paisley Park Studios complex, Chanhassen, Minnesota.

The cultural and musical implications are clear about drugs: they are often incorporated into the lifestyle. Just think, "Sex. Drugs. Rock n Roll." It is a mantra. Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Sid Vicious, John Bonham, Kurt Kobain, Bradley Nowell, Dee Dee Ramone, Whitney Houston and Scott Weiland. Weiland, known internationally from Stone Temple Pilots, lived and died in Minnesota.

And in the 2000s and 2010s, two pop icons died from drugs that are medically controlled and regulated. The above performers were using substances like heroin, alcohol and cocaine for recreational use. Michael Jackson overdosed on Propofol and benzodiazepine. Prince's overdose came from fentanyl.

The crack game came in the 1980s and 1990s. The meth wave followed in the 2000s trailed not far behind by designer/club drugs and on to abuse of prescription drugs, which has fed a pipeline to the heroin trade. Heroin is particularly pure in Minnesota.

Related: Pop Singer Prince Announced to Have Accidentally Died From Fentanyl - Mankato Gazette Online Newspaper
Related: Prince Died of Overdose Medical Examiner Says - IFR News Service
Related: Latest Details on Prince Death - Zoom Village

The question remains for policy makers and leaders in the drug debate: public health issue or criminal issue?

The question remains for the culture and the music world: what can be done to encourage creativity without abuse and destruction of life?