The recent death of pop superstar Prince not only caused an alarm for the world's drug addiction dilemma — it also highlights problems with opioid antidote naloxone.
Prince was found dead in his Paisley Park home in Chanhassen, Minnesota on April 21. Although Prince was thought to have had a clean lifestyle by staying away from alcohol and drugs — something which his contemporaries had a difficult time avoiding — there was one secret he apparently kept even from his close friends: painkiller addiction.
As more and more details about Prince's death surface from investigations, the angle of addiction arises. In a search warrant released by court, authorities have identified a doctor who prescribed the late artist with drugs, but details have not yet been confirmed.
Naloxone: What Is It?
Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids or narcotics such as excessive drowsiness, loss of consciousness and slowed breathing.
The drug is usually administered during emergency cases and should not be used as a substitute for urgent medical intervention for an overdose. Naloxone may also aid in determining whether an individual has overdosed on an opioid.
Naloxone should be administered with utmost caution. Patients should tell their healthcare providers if they have ongoing medical conditions to ensure that naloxone is not contraindicated for them.
Naloxone may impair an individual's way of thinking. Hence, it is advisable to refrain from activities that require full concentration such as driving.
As naloxone is an antidote, administration also reverses the pain-relieving effects of opioids.
Prince died just days after he was treated for overdose of painkiller Percocet. He was particularly aboard a plane when the aircraft crew decided to make an emergency landing to attend to the artist. He received naloxone during his hospital stay and survived.
What frustrates many, especially police and authorities, is that six days after that incident, Prince was found dead due to reasons strongly linked with prescription drugs addiction.
Although the pop star's exact cause of death has not yet been confirmed, the possibility of drug overdose takes a strong lead.
If investigators would be able to prove that drugs did play a role in Prince's death, then it would put the limelight on the alarming public situation.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the state has allowed the possession of naloxone among police officers and people close to known addicts. Such move aims to increase the availability of naloxone, even in schools, to curb the fatal effects of overdose. So far, this action has already saved 800 lives.
In a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of opioid overdose showed an increasing trend, warranting states to provide naloxone to key persons.
"During 2013, 90 (66.2 percent) of the 136 organizations reported distributing 140,053 naloxone vials, including refills," the CDC report reads.
The program appears to be bound for beneficial effects, yet it is being dragged down by stories such as Prince's death. This is because it goes to show that no matter how many times authorities try to save the lives of addicts, the end result still remains bleak and unsuccessful. Continuous and effective treatment for these people just cannot seem to push through.
In response to this, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is boosting programs to get overdose patients to enroll in treatment immediately.
Prince's death is controversial, but confirming that his meltdown was due to drug overdose would spark more intense fire, as it will highlight the destructive abilities of opioids and problems with naloxone availability.