Death of Rock Legend Brings to Light the Dark World of Opioid Addiction

In April 2016, world-renowned singer Prince was found dead at age 57 in his Paisley Park recording studio. An autopsy showed he had overdosed on a commonly used opioid for pain management, which he took for chronic hip pain from years of performing onstage.

About 1.5 million Americans abuse painkillers and roughly 2 million Americans suffer from opioid addiction or dependence. The American Society of Addiction Medicine estimated that there were 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers in 2014. In addition to this troubling statistic, the CDC estimates that about 44 people die each day in the U.S. from an overdose of prescription painkillers.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are commonly prescribed to patients to provide relief from acute and chronic pain. They work by reducing the intensity of pain signals that reach the brain, producing morphine-like effects. Unfortunately, opioids are extremely addictive when taken in high doses over a long period of time. The euphoric high creates opioid abuse, which has led to an overdose epidemic.

What Do Opioids Treat?

Opioids are typically used for immediate or short-term pain relief due to their rapid onset and effectiveness. They can be prescribed for the treatment of acute pain before or after surgery, as well as for managing illnesses such as multiple sclerosis where the pain is chronic and persists longer than three to six months.

Other conditions for which opioids may be prescribed include:

  • Back pain
  • Knee/joint pain
  • Neck pain or migraines

Who Is at Risk for Addiction?

Unfortunately, opioid addiction is a vicious cycle, and anyone using opioids can be at risk. Withdrawal symptoms make patients more likely to increase their doses over time. Meanwhile, tolerance to high doses of opioids quickly builds.

There are certain factors, which can determine an individual’s risk level for dependency. They include but are not limited to the following:

  • There is a greater chance of dependency if the abuse starts at a younger age
  • Biology/genetics. Addictions can run in families with a strong genetic link
  • Social environment. Friends, family members or colleagues can have a drastic influence on addiction

What Are the Alternatives?

Recent studies have shown that alternative therapies, like nerve blocks, are safe to explore without many side effects and may have a positive effect on quality of life. Nerve blocks are a non-surgical treatment option. These therapeutic injections alleviate pain by delivering the anesthetic directly to the affected nerve, blocking the transmission of pain signals to the brain and reducing inflammation. A nerve block can be used to treat painful conditions or to locate the source of pain, making it a helpful diagnostic tool.

In conjunction with pain injections, other alternative therapies may be prescribed, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage and yoga.

In Our Practice 

Understanding pain is what our practice does best. At The Center for Musculoskeletal Disorders, our orthopedic doctors utilize a variety of methods, such as physical therapy services, bracing, injections and medications based on the patient’s specific needs. Our practice strives to provide conservative therapies whenever possible, and we educate our patients to become more involved in their care.