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What the Overdose Death of Prince Shows Us about Stigma

What the Overdose Death of Prince Shows Us about Stigma

Author: Justin Mckibben

When the news first broke that the musical icon and revolutionary artist Prince had passed last month there were sources indicating his untimely death may have had something to do with a tragic overdose. Speculations and controversy followed these statements as some people were irate that people would even suggest drugs were involved when the official cause of death was not announced.

Now the medical examiner’s findings have been confirmed, and it appears that those stories were not unfounded after all.

So, taking everything into consideration, I want to talk about the official autopsy report and about what the reactions some people have been having to this story tell us about drug addiction stigma.

Cause of Death

At only 57 years old, Prince Rogers Nelson passed away at his home in Minnesota on April 21st of this year. Despite the fact Prince had a well-tuned history of keeping his personal affairs very private, almost immediately there were sources stating he had been treated just 6 days before his death for a drug overdose when his private jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois. With sources saying he was treated with a “save shot” and others indicating it was naloxone used to treat him.

6 Days later on a Thursday morning the tragedy took its toll; Prince was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. that day. Since then the questions about the possible involvement of drugs have led to intense debate, but it seems there is no longer a need to cycle through rumors. The truth is just that.

Prince- the purple one who is arguably one of the greatest musicians of his time- died due to a Fentanyl overdose.

The autopsy findings were released in a one-page report from the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office (MMEO). It remains uncertain when Prince took the drug, but it has been confirmed he did administer it himself. The investigation into Prince’s death was a joint effort conducted by:

  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minnesota
  • The Carver County Sheriff’s Office

At this time the MMEO has made a statement claiming its office had completed the investigation and would not make any further comment as of the details of the investigation.

Fame and Fentanyl

Despite his reputation for celebrating clean living, singer and Prince’s ex-fiancée Sheila E. said the artist was struggling with constant pain due to years of dancing and performing in high-heeled boots. This is something to take note of. When people get into a conversation on drug addiction or substance dependence they often assume that the individual got that way through recreational drug use. That in itself is a mindset shrouded in stigma.

The truth is, thousands upon thousands of people in the past few years have attested to the fact that they found themselves addicted to opiates after being prescribed medications to help with injuries or other chronic pain. Many found their way from legitimate use of narcotic medications like OxyContin to full-blown addiction to heroin. Prince was actually scheduled to meet with a prominent California doctor and addiction expert Dr. Howard Kornfeld, who specializes in opioid addiction treatment, the day after his death. Some people realize once they have crossed a line it is time for change and reach out.

As the opiate epidemic continues to take lives every single day the addition of the corrosive and insidious drug Fentanyl has only magnified the destruction caused by prescription opioids and heroin. Fentanyl has consistently added to serious spikes in opiate related overdoses and death rates.

Part of a Bigger Problem

There are a few reasons I wanted to write about this again, beyond the fact that it is important to follow up with such an important story.

Now I want to talk about stigma.

I want to address the issue with how everyone reacted to the initial articles talking about this because it seemed as soon as anyone started writing and posting about the possible involvement of drugs in the death of Prince, people started to answer with outrage- claiming his name was being dragged through the mud with no proof.

Here’s my question- why does dying of an overdose make him less of the amazing person he was?

Why do people still respond to that kind of news as if any hint that Prince might have used drugs could make him any less of a hero to the world of music?

Don’t get me wrong, it does drive me crazy that people these days seem ok with accepting and spreading misinformation as if it were gospel.

However, I want to look at this bigger picture of why suddenly because someone says Prince might have been struggling with substances the world is up in arms about the very idea that such a talented and intellectual man could have anything to do with drugs. Is it so hard to believe that someone as incredible and inspiring as Prince could have ever become an addict? Is it so disgraceful to think Prince developed a serious dependence (albeit unintentional)? The fact that the world reacted to sources of these drug overdose accounts with such distaste only shows that stigma still stands between the average person and some true compassion for those who struggle with addiction.

It is imperative that as a society we see the reality and stop shaming this kind circumstance. If we want to move forward we have to see how this kind of thinking keeps us stuck.

Maybe next time someone dies from an overdose we should still celebrate their life and raise awareness through the circumstances of their death, not inadvertently shame them for their disease.

Just a thought.

How many people lose their lives every day because they want help but don’t get it in time? For Prince, he was one day away from getting help. So many lose their lives to a disease that is over-stigmatized and under-treated. There is help out there, so no one should wait until its too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-851-6135

Prince Sought Pill Addiction Rehab before Death

Prince Sought Pill Addiction Rehab before Death

Author: Justin Mckibben

April 21, 2016 we lost an amazing artist and musical visionary, and the whole world wept in the wake of this tragedy. The day after the news had hit I wrote a story to acknowledge the passing of this celebrated icon, and also to point out some of the despairing speculation surrounding the circumstances of his death. For Prince, a seemingly healthy 57-year-old rock and roll superstar, to suddenly die in an elevator there was sure to be a great deal of suspicion as to how this could have happened. While most were engaged in commemorating his inspiring legacy, some were taking a closer look to see if there was more to this story.

While some rejected the notion of drugs having any part in the death of Prince, others were concerned about the story of his plane’s emergency landing in Moline, Illinois on the way home to Minnesota, where Prince had to be checked into the hospital. This was just 6 days before this incredibly talented icon died, and the story said that he had received a “save shot” which is suspected to be Narcan to save him from a near-fatal overdose.

When tabloid reports first surfaced that this sudden halt in air-traffic was to treat Prince for a drug overdose, some people were still not convinced- but now it seems there may be more truth to the connection between a painkiller habit and his untimely death.

Prince Tried to get Treatment

According to new reports, the musical legend Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) had actually signed up for rehab prior to his sudden and heartbreaking passing in order to battle his pain pill addiction. These sources from the Minneapolis news station KSTP 5 Eyewitness News reported that the “Purple Rain” originator knew he was addicted to the prescription painkiller Percocet before his death, so he entered an outpatient treatment program.

In a desperate attempt to try and free himself from the debilitating bondage of his addiction this actual American idol attended an unnamed rehab center to try and separate himself from using the medication, which had initially been prescribed to Prince for his severe hip pain. The publication TMZ was one of the first to report on the possibility of drug-related illness having anything to do with this terrible tragedy. According to their recent reports Prince regularly obtained the opioid pills from multiple doctors, including “a personal friend.” This side of the story again reflects similar celebrity deaths where the stars either have “personal friends” who are dealing dangerous narcotics or they receive excessive amounts of medications from doctors, turning doctors into dealers and maybe ultimately links to the chain of events that cause these deaths.

Current Investigation

The week before April 21, Prince had reportedly went to a local Walgreens pharmacy in Minneapolis to fill prescriptions four times! If that isn’t an excessive amount of opioids I don’t know what is. TMZ reported that law enforcement raided the pharmacy the following Friday, searching for evidence that could shed light on Prince’s passing, although at this point officials have yet to release a cause of death.

An official autopsy was conducted last week, but the medical examiner said it will take weeks for the cause of death to be confirmed. So far officials have not confirmed or denied what real role prescription painkillers played in Prince’s collapse, but the county sheriff investigating the death has asked for help from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as painkillers were found in Prince’s possession when he died.

According to NBC News, the DEA’s role-“will be to determine such things as where the medications came from, and what prescriptions Prince had obtained. DEA agents often check those records in death investigations.”

While the painkillers might make this investigation a little more difficult, in the end we can at least hope for the truth to come out and that if these painkillers do have anything to do with the death of Prince, it will undoubtedly raise even more concern about prescription drug abuse and addiction. If doctor shopping and drug abuse has a real connection to this catastrophe it is sure to inspire advocates of monitoring medications and restricting opioid use to be more aggressive with their protestations, and maybe more doctors will be held accountable.

While it is very distressing to hear that drug addiction might have stolen yet another awesome and moving idol from us, it is important to take note that he was trying to get help. How many people lose their lives every day because they want help but don’t get it in time? There is help out there, so no one should wait until its too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-851-6135

Did a Drug Overdose Play a Role in Death of Prince?

Did a Drug Overdose Play a Role in Death of Prince?

Author: Justin Mckibben

This week the world lost yet another incredible and iconic artist who gave so much originality and uniquely inspiring efforts to creating a sound and a vibe that changed music. Doves cry now, along with the countless legions of fans and close friends mourning the genius mind of cultural and artistic innovation that was Prince.

Shortly after his tragic passing this week at the young age of 57, Prince’s legacy is being celebrated all over the world- but not unlike many other rock stars before him, his untimely death is being questioned and queried over by sources everywhere while the official cause of death is awaited, and some are looking at the last week of his life to see if a rumored opiate overdose had anything to do with the health issues that stole from this world a brilliant and phenomenal purple light so soon.

The Life of THE Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Since becoming a household name he has been known simply by the alias Prince, while also transitioning to “The Artists Formerly Known as Prince” and even changed his stage name in 1993 to an unpronounceable symbol known as the “Love Symbol” for a brief time. Prince was a verbose and versatile man, described as:

  • Singer
  • Songwriter
  • Multi-instrumentalist
  • Record producer
  • Actor

Prince was legendary as an innovator, and has been vastly venerated for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. As the pioneer of Minneapolis sound, Prince’s music integrates a wide variety of styles, including:

  • Funk
  • Rock
  • R&B
  • Soul
  • Psychedelia
  • Pop

His album Prince released in 1979 and the successful singles featured on the playlist skyrocketed his record to platinum status. Since then his achievements in the realm of music have amplified, including:

  • Selling over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time.
  • Winning 7 Grammy Awards
  • Winning a Golden Globe Award
  • Winning an Academy Award

Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year of his eligibility. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Prince at number 27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

As if that wasn’t enough, he wrote a Batman album!

This man was a stellar performer, a visionary who was hip to the vigilante in all of us, and he could just SHRED a guitar like nobody’s business! He pushed boundaries of the typical American man in fashion and style, and he inspired artists for decades after his first hit.

6 Days before Death of Prince

Prince was exceptional about keeping his personal life pretty private, so many have wondered how such a heartbreaking development happened so fast, and how a presumably healthy vegetarian such as Prince could die at only 57 years old.

Now according to various sources which reported to the tabloid TMZ, Prince was treated just 6 days before his death for a drug overdose.

Prince’s private jet made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois last Friday, hours after he performed in Atlanta. Originally the shows had been postponed when his reps said he was battling the flu. Then after his emergency landing people started questioning this reasoning because his plane was only 48 minutes from home when it made the stop. Why was this flu issue so urgent?

Multiple sources in Moline reported to TMZ that Prince was rushed to a hospital and doctors gave him a “save shot,” which sounds a lot like a Naloxone-type-deal… but could be an emergency flu shot… maybe… if that is a thing? Typically a “save shot” like Naloxone administered to counteract the effects of an opiate.

TMZ has published that further sources stated that doctors advised Prince to stay in the hospital for 24 hours, but that this plan was abandoned after Prince couldn’t get a private room. Prince was released 3 hours after arriving and flew home.

Goodbye to The Purple One

Currently authorities in Minnesota are trying to get the hospital records from his visit to Moline to help determine cause of death, and at the time this article was written Prince’s reps were not able to be reached for comment.

Prince was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. Thursday, April 21 after begin found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios. While an investigation has been launched into the cause of death, the autopsy is scheduled for today, meaning we may have developments at any moment.

Is Prince another victim of too many pills and not enough people protecting his health? Or is this all just speculation and rumor? Was his privacy a cause for concern, or is it this very kind of speculation and invasive assumption he was avoiding while staying out of the public eye? We have no authority at this time to make an assumption on the cause of death, nor would I as a writer wish to tarnish the name of such an amazing musician… but that being said the emergency landing story does raise a question whether we like it or not. In the past we have seen how the incredibly famous have been pumped full of drugs, be it for legitimate medical reasons (which is possible considering Prince’s health history with the need for hip surgery) or otherwise illicit drug use, and allowed to teeter on the edge for far too long before it costs them their lives.

For now, all we can do is say goodbye to Alexander Nevermind… Jamie Starr… Joey Coco… the Prince who changed lives with Purple Rain and taught us how to party like its 1999 back when it was only 1982. He gave us the Batdance, and he was the baddest soul brother to tear up a stage with a guitar that looked like a chunk of purple abstract art. Remembered as a kind and ambitious force of conviction and astounding talent. Thank you, Prince… for the life you gave to the world.

“A strong spirit transcends rules.”


Artists, musicians, celebrities of all kinds face the same temptations, and sometimes the same circumstances when it comes to substance abuse and addiction, and some have not survived their struggles with substances. While this may not apply to Prince, the message here could at least be that life is precious and every opportunity to make yours better should be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


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