A friend who deals with governmental health policy was over for dinner last night. “There is no pure heroin on the streets anymore. It’s all cut with Fentynal. All of it. And the number of people dying is crazy.”
And it’s not just a problem with street drugs. There’s a full-blown opioid crisis involving prescriptions. Fentanyl killed Prince. We heard last week that Tom Petty died of an accidental overdose from a cocktail of drugs dominated by Fentanyl. And there are whispers that Dolores O’Riordan may have been another accidental victim.
The National Safety Council in the US released this statement.
Jan. 19, 2018
National Safety Council Statement on Tom Petty’s Death
Itasca, IL – The National Safety Council extends its deepest sympathies to Tom Petty’s family, friends, band members and millions of fans as they grapple not only with his loss, but also with the knowledge that the musical icon was taken far too soon because of a preventable opioid-involved overdose. The opioid crisis silences more than 100 incredible voices every day, and the numbers continue rising.
We know Petty was right when he sang, “There ain’t no easy way out.” Indeed, there is no silver bullet for ending opioid misuse. But there are several things we can do including emptying medicine cabinets of unused pills, affixing “Opioids: Warn Me” labels to insurance cards so doctors know to discuss alternative pain relief options, and advocating for easy and affordable access to treatment. We also commend Petty’s family for encouraging a dialogue about opioid misuse in the wake of this report. As his family rightly notes, many people who overdose begin using opioids following an injury, and they may not understand the risks. Artists and the music industry have an incredible platform from which to raise awareness and create change, and we urge them to follow the Petty family’s lead and use it.
Petty famously sang, “I will stand my ground.” We join the Heartbreakers on the chorus “and we won’t back down” until we reverse this trend and Stop Everyday Killers.
Political Magazine had this, too.
When pop star Prince died in April 2016, a gaggle of health care researchers and reporters—including me—tried to see the silver lining in his surprising, opioid-linked death. If even Prince, a famous teetotaler with access to the best medical care, could end up addicted to painkillers, surely that would show that the opioid epidemic was reaching every corner of America. Maybe in death, his celebrity could illuminate the high stakes of the crisis and force a reckoning.
We were very wrong. More than 55,000 Americans—rich, poor, famous and not—have since died from their own opioid overdoses. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the death rate in 2018 could be even worse. And Friday night’s news that rock star Tom Petty died from his own preventable painkiller overdose, more than a year after Prince, underscores how far there is to go.
In health care, there’s a quest for celebrity patients—a symbol who can galvanize change. It’s a strategy that’s worked before. Ryan White, a teenager in the 1980s, became the face of HIV/AIDS and helped drive research and reforms. More recently, actor Michael J. Fox raised awareness of Parkinson’s disease; Angelina Jolie’s op-ed about her breast cancer risk spurred a spike in genetic testing.
That hasn’t really happened with painkiller deaths, perhaps because there are too many famous faces to pick from.