Opioid Overdose in the Spotlight Following Prince’s Death

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Prince Rogers Nelson, the musician known simply as Prince, was found dead in his Paisley Park recording studio on April 21 of this year. Prince’s friend Kirk Johnson, his personal assistant Meron Bekure, and an addiction specialist stumbled upon the artist unresponsive in an elevator. The police were immediately called, but later reports indicated Prince had been dead for six hours before the discovery of his body.

When the news hit the public, there were as many theories about his death as there were people grieving. Everyone has a slightly different version of what must have happened. The first related detail released was that the pop star’s plane made an emergency landing in Moine, Illinois the week before his death. The media reported that he was treated with Narcan, an opioid antidote, at the local hospital. It was this incident that caused those close to the star to call in an addiction specialist.

What Killed Prince?

Ultimately, it was revealed that Prince had suffered an overdose of the powerful opioid fentanyl. Like so many other Americans, the artist was treating his chronic pain with a chemically synthesized opioid medication.

He was not alone in overdosing. In fact, 2014 was distinguished as the year with the highest number of drug overdose deaths on record.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report six out of every ten deaths were caused by an opioid overdose.

Perhaps, this event can serve as the genesis for an important conversation about opioid overdose caused by prescription painkillers. What follows is a discussion of the dangers posed by fentanyl and other, similar drugs and some solutions that could have saved Prince and can save you from death.

If you have a problem with fentanyl or another opioid, you are placing yourself in danger. But, addiction is so powerful that the risk to your life may not be a strong enough one to induce you to stop using. You need help, and we would like to offer it. Call 800-584-3274 and speak to an expert who will be happy to direct you to the help you deserve.

What Is Fentanyl?

Opioid Overdose

Prince overdosed on a prescription opioid called fentanyl.

Fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is a powerful synthetic opioid painkiller that is similar to other opioids, specifically morphine. However, it is 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is clearly a Schedule II prescription drug, meaning it has “a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.”

The medication is primarily used to treat individuals suffering from extreme pain or to manage pain after surgery. It changes the way the brain and nervous system respond to pain. It may be used to treat patients who experience chronic pain, like Prince, and are physically tolerant to other opioids, among which fentanyl is considered particularly fast acting.

How Can a Person Overdose on a Drug Like Fentanyl?

Often, prescription drugs seem safe because they are provided by medical professionals. But, many users move from strict adherence to a doctor’s instructions to increasingly erratic use. It isn’t hard to fall victim to the addictive quality of opioids, especially when you are using them to battle chronic pain. A harmless short-term prescription can quickly transform into long-term dependence.

Millions who suffer from chronic pain are desperate for relief and they may begin to take larger or more frequent doses to dull their physical agony. When people take larger doses, they develop tolerance to the drug and this means that they must continue taking larger and larger doses to achieve the pain relief initially provided.

Once you develop tolerance, you also become dependent and cannot stop taking the opioid medication without triggering terrible withdrawals. It is likely that Prince was dependent, but no proof was offered that he was addicted.

Regardless, larger and larger doses ultimately leads, for many people, to a dose that is too large for the body to handle. Most people who overdose on fentanyl die from respiratory depression; they go to sleep and they don’t wake up.

Fentanyl Overdose Dangers and Improved Treatment Access

What Can Be Done?

It has been demonstrated that abstinence only treatments for opioid dependence, especially for those in chronic pain, are not successful. It actually causes a higher chance of overdose, as people return to drug use to stop the withdrawal symptoms and often their previously taken dose has become too much for them to handle.

Instead, doctors recommend medication-assisted treatment using a drug like buprenorphine, which reduces the potential for misuse, risk in situations of overdose, and withdrawal and cravings. As the newest opioid medication approved by the FDA, buprenorphine has proven highly effective.

To find a treatment center that uses medication-assisted treatment for opioid dependence and addiction, contact 800-584-3274. We can help you find a structured, professional program that can help you break the cycle of opioid dependence before it is too late.

When entering treatment for drug addiction, there are usually certain things that are okay and certain things that are not okay. Depending on the program or facility, different things might be considered a “treatment faux pas” and are frowned upon. In some groups, discussing your addiction “war story” is something that should be avoided.

Before you can worry about what is acceptable and what isn’t during treatment, you should first contact 800-584-3274 to find out what treatment options are best for you in order to overcome your addiction.

What Are Addiction War Stories?

“War stories”, when it comes to addiction, are stories about a person’s experiences with addiction that might have resulted in a life-or-death situation.  They might involve moments when the addiction was at its strongest or even involve pivotal moments for the person in the addiction.

War Story

Sharing your addiction war story keeps you dwelling on the past instead of focusing on sobriety.

Sometimes, these war stories can be important in understanding the person’s addiction and how treatment can be applied. Keep in mind that every person is affected by addiction differently, so often treatment needs to be customized the person’s needs, thus there are times when war stories can be quite helpful.

Why Are They Not Okay?

There are three key aspects to successful addiction treatment, according to the NIDA: the person must stop using, remain drug-free, and become a productive person in their family and society. For some treatment programs, the easiest way to achieve these aspects and success is to look forward, not backward.

Sharing a war story about your addiction can be seen as something that is preventing you from moving forward. While addressing what happened and what you did while under the influence of your addiction is important to overcoming it, it can be detrimental to your sobriety and recovery to repeatedly dwell on the past.

For some groups, addiction war stories might be seen as a means of unhealthy competition, especially in group treatment settings. The DEA states that the effect drugs have is different for everyone, so it would be safe to say that not everyone is going to have the same experiences and war stories as the person next to them.

However, some might see it as boasting or bragging about your experiences, even though that is probably not what is actually happening. Others might be reminded about a negative experience, which can trigger uncomfortable or upsetting memories and affect their progress in treatment.

How Support Groups Benefit Your Opiate Addiction Recovery

What Are The Alternatives?

Not everything is appropriate for every situation, even when seeking treatment for addiction. For war stories, it might be best to keep them out of group settings, leaving them for one-on-one discussions with your treatment provider during individual therapy sessions.

If you’re not sure if something you want to share is appropriate for a group setting, talk it over with your sponsor of counselor before the session. Pay attention to the topics being shared at group sessions if you are unsure about what to talk about.

One alternative could be sharing a story about your progress in treatment so far or, if you really need to share your war story, consider wording it so that it doesn’t cause distress for yourself and others.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please know that help is available. For more information about what treatment options are available for you, please call 800-584-3274 to speak with a caring specialist.

Recovery is a long and tedious process. It takes a lot of willpower and work to be able to shake off your addiction. After going through such a long process of recovery, relapsing is not something you want to experience so you have to go through the entire recovery process again.

If you want avoid relapse, know what people will lead you back to your addiction, know your relapse signs, leave your old habits behind, and believe in yourself to be able to pull through.

Know Your People

A major setback that can cause many addicts to relapse is being around family and friends that fuel their habit. If you stay around people that indulge in your addiction, give you money for your addiction, or attempt to get you to go back to your old addiction, you need to leave them behind.

The US Department of Education conducted an experiment wherein they found 85 percent of adolescents entering addiction treatment in the United States begin regular use of alcohol and other drugs before the age of 15. This means that there are many people out there that can hinder your progress in recovery.

Make sure you stay clear of the people on drugs that would influence you to continue your addiction. You don’t want people in your life that don’t support your recovery.  If you stay with them, it is more likely you will relapse.

Know Your Signs

Relapse Prevention

Being optimistic about your ability to recover will help to prevent relapse.

Many addicts have their own personal signs of when they feel the need to relapse. Understand who you are and the things you usually do before you feel the need to partake in your addiction. If you can understand your body and its reactions, it is easier to stop yourself in your tracks before you start snowballing back into your addiction.

Leave Old Habits Behind

If your old hangouts and hobbies include places and things that make it easy to have access to your addiction, you should probably start looking toward finding new hobbies and hangouts.

You don’t want to be around things that make your drug accessible to you. Temptation is a killer for addicts attempting to avoid relapse. Change up the way the old you operated and you are sure to keep your new you free from addiction.

Believe in Yourself

Believing in yourself is important in your journey for relapse prevention. The mind is a powerful thing and staying optimistic and thinking that you won’t go back to your addiction is a great outlook to have that will help increase your willpower.

If you go toward your recovery with a negative attitude it makes it more likely that you will give up or go back to your addiction. Simply thinking that you have what it takes to make it through the trying times of recovery can make it feel easier to fight addiction.

As described by the US Department of Health and Human Services, recovery is a process of making it through stages and that if a person is not aware of their progression during each stage, they will relapse. This is why it is important to believe and pay attention to yourself.

If you are trying to avoid relapsing, avoid people and places that could influence your old addiction. Understand yourself so you know your signs and so you can believe that you really have what it takes to defeat this. If you feel as though you are struggling with your recovery don’t be afraid to call 800-584-3274 today to make sure you stay healthy and happy in your recovery.

How to Beat Opiate Addiction Without Relapse

It is a common misconception to assume that drug addiction and abuse are one in the same but in fact, there are very different. Both are very damaging to an individual’s life, and they are both connected to the same principle, but each have their own set of characteristics that present different problems for each person.

It is important to know the difference between the two especially when an individual or a family member are trying to find the best way to handle the unique situation.

Characteristics of Drug Abuse

There are many signs that can show that the individual is practicing drug abuse. Many believe that drug abuse is not as severe as an addiction, but it can have just as adverse affects on a person as a drug addiction.

Drug Addiction and Drug Abuse

A drug addict will likely withdraw from loved ones in order to continue their use.

Abuse is the body’s way of adapting to that drug by gradually larger use to gain the feeling the person wants in order to achieve the results of what the user felt initially. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, drug abuse plays a large role in the individual’s social problems, such as violence, driving while under the influence of drugs, child abuse, and stress.

Drug abuse can be the cause of legal and/or behavioral issues when the user is under the influence, and can even cause him or her to do physical harm to others around them. It can also cause the individual to be unable to perform daily tasks from household duties to work responsibilities.

Drug abuse is the stage before addiction that requires the individual to take in more of the substance to reach their desired high. In short, if drug abuse is not handled early on, it can lead to an addiction, which will require professional help to fix.

Drug Addiction Characteristics

According to the NIDA, an addiction is different from abuse because an addiction is the use of a drug by an individual that is compulsive in spite of the harmful consequences. Drug addictions can cause a lower interest in hobbies or interests and impede their progress in their career or education.

It can also affect their social lives by causing him or her to withdraw from their friends and family. Their behavior may revolve around their drug with the desire of remaining in their high for as long and as often as possible.

Many addicts will continually attempt to slow down their use of the drug or detoxify themselves without success and continue to use despite their drug-related problems that begin to arise.

Which Opiates are the Most Commonly Abused?

There are many differences between drug addiction and drug abuse. While drug abuse can lead to an addiction if it is not treated correctly, each has their own set of characteristics. An addiction is a compulsive behavior to use the drug that is beyond a person’s control whereas the abuse is a gradual increase in use of the drug to attain the same high they received when they initially used it.

If you or a loved one is suffering from drug abuse or addiction and needs help, call 800-584-3274 to speak with a caring specialist that can assist you.

Largely unprecedented, experienced users and novices, alike, are overdosing on heroin at an ever increasing rate with silent dangers that need to be recognized and treatment efforts that need to be expanded.

Heroin Overdose Facts

The CDC reports that from 2000- 2014, “the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin).”  No other year on record has shown more people dying from drug overdoses in the United States than in 2014 where 28,647 deaths or 61% of 47,055 drug overdose deaths involved an interrelated trend of “deaths involving prescription opioid pain relievers and a recent surge in illicit opioid overdose deaths, driven largely by heroin.”

Heroin Abuse Contributing Risk Factors

Heroin Overdoses

Heroin use is becoming more prevalent among women and the higher income bracket.

There are several contributing factors to the epidemic rise in heroin overdoses with past misuse of prescription opioids being the strongest.  These risk factors increase with the availability, potency, and cheaper costs that heroin has to offer for those who are opioid dependents.  DEA crackdowns on “pill mills” and unscrupulous overprescribing practices, along with redesigned formulations that make prescription opioids more difficult to inject and slower to release, also play a role in the initiation of heroin abuse and subsequently, overdoses.

When prescription opioids are unavailable or too costly, heroin fills the void and once used, the immediate, euphoric, effects are hard to be re-captured by almost any other opioid drug.  Typically snorted or injected, certain heroin molecules are able to cross blood-brain barriers rapidly and according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there is a direct relation “of this rapid penetration of the blood-brain barrier by heroin to its strongly addictive properties.”  It is this rapid and intense effect that depresses the central nervous system to stop breathing and slow down the heart rate leading to death.

Recent Trends

Demographics show that some of the greatest increases in heroin use are occurring with women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes, a differing trend from the past.  Crossing the southern border is black tar heroin that has been, reportedly, some of the more potent and pure form of heroin due to its manufacturing process that increases or retains the psychoactive molecules, 3-MAM (3-monoacetylmorphine) and 6-MAM (6-monoacetylmorphine).

Another alarming trend is the use of illicitly manufactured fentanyl passed off as heroin or mixed in with heroin doses to increase profits for the distributors and dealers. According to the CDC, “Based on reports from states and drug seizure data, however, a substantial portion of the increase in synthetic opioid deaths appears to be related to increased availability of illicit fentanyl.”

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid designed for slow release pain management and comparably more than 80 times stronger than morphine.  Typically used to treat chronic and severe pain, prescription fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, and Sublimaze) may be administered via trans-dermal patches, injection, or lozenges.    On the street, fentanyl may be called China white, China girl, Apache”, goodfella, TNT, Tango and Cash, and others.

What too many heroin abusers are unaware of is the presence and potency of this variant mixture in every possible dose of heroin they consume.  According to the CDC, “Toxicology tests used by coroners and medical examiners are unable to distinguish between prescription and illicit fentanyl”, but, it is this silent danger that is making waves in society as one of the most problematic contributors to the epidemic rises in heroin overdose deaths, today.

What to do in the Event of a Fentanyl Overdose

Expanding Needs for Heroin Addiction Treatment

The longest running histories of treatment for heroin addictions involve methadone and buprenorphine detox and maintenance programs.  Heroin users are most often involved in the combination use of other opioids and drugs that amplify the effects and cause many of the overdoses witnessed in both fatal and non-fatal cases.   Non-fatal overdoses have their own implicated dangers in causing hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), lung, heart, and other vital organ damages, as well as the premature deaths resulting from diseases and infections.

Naloxone is an antagonist medication that is able to reverse opioid effects in a person who is overdosing, but, addicts are usually alone when they inject and therefore, an overdose may go unrecognized.  In their desperations to get the fix quickly, they also tend to disregard any possible dangers so, treatments must be expanded to reach the broad range of users who are naïve to the costs of their heroin use and above all prevent the onslaught of damages as a result. To learn more about the dangers of heroin or for help finding treatment, call 800-584-3274 today.


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