Dr. Drew Talks About Prince's Overdose in New PSA on Opioid Addiction

By Dorri Olds 06/08/16

“We are 5% of the world’s population here in the United States and we consume 80% of the world’s pain medication.”

Dr. Drew Talks About Prince's Overdose in New PSA on Opioid Addiction
Photo KABC Radio/YouTube

Dr. Drew Pinsky is spreading the word about the ever-growing problem plaguing our nation: addiction to prescription pain medication. In a public service announcement posted to YouTube on Friday, June 3, the Celebrity Rehab doc discusses Prince's death, warning the public of the dangers of opiates.

Dr. Drew is well-versed in how addicts’ minds work. “I spent over 25 years working in a psychiatric hospital, two decades working in addiction medicine—I ran a treatment center—and probably 15 years ago, I was telling my staff that there’s a tsunami coming,” he said in the PSA.

The storm he’s referring to is the rampant addiction to prescription pain medication and anti-anxiety medication, benzodiazepines. “We are 5% percent of the world’s population here in the United States and we consume 80% of the world’s pain medication,” he said. "Do you think there's a problem? It's completely out of control."

Those numbers are verified in a 2008 study, which also found that Americans consume 99% of the global hydrocodone supply and two-thirds of the world's illegal drugs.

Many are still reeling from Prince's April 21 death and news of his apparent addiction to opiates. A report by the Midwest Examiner's Office blamed the music icon's death on "self-administered fentanyl," making him just another victim of this "now commonplace condition, which is opiate pain medication dependency," said Dr. Drew.

“Fentanyl is a medication designed for end of life and cancer," he continued in the PSA. "It was not meant to be used for pain, chronic pain. In fact, there’s no evidence that opioid pain medication are useful in the treatment of chronic pain. In fact, [it] often makes things worse and endangers people’s life [sic]. Why would we recommend something to patients that makes them worse, and does not help them and endangers them?”

Not only are these narcotic drugs dangerous and ineffective, the doctor said, long-term opioid use can cause a paradoxical condition called opioid-induced hyperalgesia, where the drug can actually worsen and prolong pain. That's the cycle of escalating pain and pursuit of the medicine that Prince, like so many others, got caught up in.

It’s the same cycle that all addicts are familiar with. We’re searching for a way to feel better that will last forever—an unattainable goal. Drugs wear the body down and whatever problem we were trying to treat has now morphed into the bigger problems caused by the overuse of drugs.

According to Dr. Drew, Prince would not have had toxic levels of fentanyl in his blood by the traditional means of fentanyl delivery—via a patch or a lollipop that provide low levels of the drug.

Unfortunately, we will never know the entire story of what happened to Prince because under Minnesota law, data collected by a medical examiner or coroner are not made public and can legally be kept private for a minimum of 30 years.

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.