Pre-Med Student Who Found Prince Pens Op-Ed On Drug Treatment

By McCarton Ackerman 06/06/16

"What happened has made me think, long and hard, about what steps we must take to prevent such entirely unnecessary loss of life."

Pre-Med Student Who Found Prince Pens Op-Ed On Drug Treatment

The pre-med student who was the first to find the body of Prince inside his Paisley Park residence has penned an op-ed on the tragedy, declaring that “nothing can prepare” a person to see someone who has lost their life to a drug overdose.

The op-ed from Andrew Kornfeld was released on Saturday by CNN. His father, prominent addiction specialist Howard Kornfeld, was scheduled to meet with the singer one day after his death. Unable to clear his schedule, he flew Andrew to Prince’s home in a bid to get him stabilized and convince him to come to his California treatment center. However, Andrew found Prince unresponsive an in elevator inside the residence when he arrived. An autopsy report last week confirmed that the music icon died from a fentanyl overdose and had administered the drug himself.

“His death was a tragedy beyond words,” wrote Andrew. “He was an inspiration to so many, and in the brief time I spent in Minnesota, I saw just how good a friend he was to those closest to him.”

Andrew spoke of the need for more doctors to be able to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug used to help wean opioid users off their drugs of choice. He cited data from the Minneapolis Star Tribune which showed that only 120 physicians in Minnesota have been cleared to prescribe buprenorphine—roughly 2.2 doctors for every 100,000 patients. Andrew was carrying a small amount of the drug with him when he arrived at the singer’s residence. He was taken into custody in Minnesota the following day as part of an investigation into Prince’s death, but released shortly after.

“When a user relapses after 'going cold turkey' (the protocol in an abstinence-based program), and then takes a higher dose than he or she previously tolerated, that dose may prove fatal. Treatment with buprenorphine instead not only diminishes the chances of overdose, but also reduces the likelihood that the patient will relapse,” he wrote. “Because buprenorphine helps to eliminate the craving for opioids, and reduces the brutal symptoms, it can give the patient the opportunity to develop healthy life habits and healing behaviors, which can readily become entrenched.”

Under the current limit for prescribing buprenorphine established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, physicians are limited to treating 30 patients at a time in the first year of being authorized to do so, and 100 patients afterwards. Although the HHS has proposed increasing this limit to 200 patients for physicians in their third year of prescribing, a group of 22 senators recently wrote a letter to the agency asking for a 500-person limit.

As Andrew begins the process of applying to medical school, he said he’ll continue to advocate for these types of reforms in order to prevent similar tragedies from happening.

“What if my father and had been able to reach Prince just a week earlier, like so many others we have helped take back their lives?” he asked. “Prince could have been here, standing on the beach beside me.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.