Prince, The Anatomy of Opioid Abuse.
Before becoming a doctor, I worked my way through college as a celebrity bodyguard. I protected several celebrities, musicians, pro athletes, politicians, and businessmen. This position is one of intimacy, privacy and a look behind the lives of those we protect. We stand on the sidelines hyper-vigilant to everything around us. I am familiar with their lives, motivations, and how they think.
The death of Prince still brings brought opioid addiction to the forefront of our consciousness. Prescription drug abuse and overdose are cited as the suspect in this most tragic death. There are so many questions from so many people trying to understand his use of painkillers. Why did he use drugs? How can Prince a religious man, be a drug addict?
Then the news turned ugly dissecting the life of Prince. Because of the drug use, Prince was being stripped of his greatness. When a friend heard the news of Prince's death, he said, "I have no sympathy for him, he was a drug addict". Prince's accomplishments erased with these two words, DRUG ADDICT. A loser like the Beavis & Butthead characters on MTV, a doper, or best yet a “stoner”. Question after question, assumption after assumption, why did Prince “need” to take drugs? "What was missing in his life that he had to take drugs"? One reporter asked, “He had everything, and he took drugs, why?" They forget these artists are over 50 years old, still working and performing as if they were 20 years old. They don't do it because they have too; they do it because they love it.
It's been reported that Prince had significant back and hip
injuries with associated arthritis. I read where surgery was recommended, but declined because of religious reasons. His complaints of unrelenting pain were legitimate and required surgery. Pain has been described as your mind running but your body is trudging through mud.
Prince most likely took these medications to continue performing. He used everything at his disposal to keep his body running at the same speed as his talent. As I stated everyone successful works at levels past human endurance. When we are young and starting out we had the energy of youth to sustain our quest. They are running full speed ahead to the goal and we are enveloped in our journey. Good enough is something you will never hear from them.
This schedule takes its toll physically and emotionally. But they ignore it because they’re sprinting to the goal; they don't look at the personal losses. Time relentlessly ticks away, and now you're working harder but slowing down. You realize the pain and exhaustion are getting in the way of working, do you stop, hell no! You find ways to energize yourself with every stimulant that can be found just to keep up with your desire. We use stimulants like Diet Coke, Coffee, Red Bull to work past exhaustion. The unrelenting physical pain, anxiety, and insomnia are now a roadblock to success. So Prince does what all people do, he goes to a doctor. Examinations were performed, tests and x-rays were ordered. Thousands of dollars in medical testing to confirm, yep you are in legitimate pain and you need drugs. The doctors tell him to slow down but that doesn't happen, we're aren't wired that way.
You take the drugs the doctor prescribes, and the pain is gone, which is the purpose of the drug in the first place. But professionals don't sit around; they go back to work, why, because they can. Better living through chemistry, we always say!
The brain is hardwired to feel good, seek pleasure, and to navigate away from pain and danger to survive. This is aptly called the fight or flight response. The brain will consciously and unconsciously do anything to seek pleasure.
Now the pain is gone, and the brain feels good. Studies show the brain likes it and wants more, so it creates more pain to get more drugs. But do we slow down and heal, NOOOOO we work harder, and longer because the drugs let us do what we like to do, work.
Personally speaking, I never got "high" from painkillers; I got relief from the pain. The lack of pain gave me a most needed boost of energy enabling me to work longer and harder. People like Prince don't call in sick; they have to be dying not to show up? Can you see Prince saying hey my hips and back hurt, I can't dance or jump, so I'm going to sit in this chair and just play. You the fan would be all right with that, NOT PRINCE. By all accounts, he wouldn't show up unless he was at the top of his game, medicated or not. And that's the point, they medicate so they can operate and perform at a level like no other.
After the death of Prince, the (DEA) Drug Enforcement Agency tried to lay blame on the doctors, when the one ultimately responsible for this tragedy is Prince himself. Why, he defied doctor’s orders to slow down rest, heal, recuperate, and stop performing. Yea like that was going to happen! In the defense of doctors, we are limited by the patient's cooperation or willingness to seek other treatments. The patient is in charge, they describe the pain and the doctor responds with more prescriptions. If the doctor doesn't prescribe or withhold prescriptions, he's negligent and open to discipline.
The DEA is now restricting opioids for everything other than Cancer or extreme circumstances. As a side note, under Obama Care, doctors can’t limit opioid use to the less fiscally endowed (poor people). But we the over achievers can't use the one drug that works because it killed Prince? So if we lay on the couch, stay off work, live on the system, that’s acceptable? But if we use the drugs to create, work, build, entertain, then that’s bad? So now we have to be sick in a socially acceptable manner? Seriously!
We, opioid users, understand the consequences of our actions when self-medicating. Are we not the stewards of our own lives? Why can't we use prescription medications that allow us to continue working? We want to be left alone to function, create, thrive and pursue happiness? It is naive to think we will stop using medications altogether. Without an alternative, people with pain will find other ways to medicate. We are hardwired to pursue happiness; it's a fundamental human right. It's written right there in the US constitution. And by all accounts, Prince lived as he performed full speed.
Was Prince a Drug Addict, maybe, but he used this tool to continue what he loved. He didn’t harm anyone, quite the opposite he touched the hearts, and souls of millions of people. Something so special, God only gives it sparingly to a select few.