Prince’s Death Proves Addiction Doesn’t Discriminate

The world collectively grieved at the passing of musical legend and icon, Prince. At the age of just 57, it seemed that the singer’s time had come too soon. Prince Rogers Nelson died of an accidental fentanyl overdose on April 21, 2016. While much of the attention surrounding the aftermath of his passing will focus on why and how he got fentanyl, it’s also time to remember that addiction doesn’t care if you’re rich, poor, famous or an average Joe.

Wealth and recognition can be enabling factors as much as they are preventative.In many cases, fame and fortune are viewed as things that can prevent a person from traveling too far down the wrong paths. But as we’ve seen from the cases of Prince, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and others, wealth and recognition can be enabling factors as much as they are preventative. Often, the stigma of addiction and the shame of admitting the need for help stops those in the public eye from seeking treatment for substance abuse and addiction.

Certainly, prosperity gives one greater access to addiction recovery and treatment services. But money can cause a person to be surrounded by a group of enabling “yes people,” who can’t or won’t step in when substance abuse has gone too far.

Prince’s Hidden Decline

A week before his tragic death, Prince’s private jet was forced to make an emergency landing. He was heading home to Minneapolis from a concert in Atlanta when he fell unconscious during the flight. The jet landed in Moline, IL, where the “Purple Rain” singer was treated with Narcan to counteract the effects of an opioid overdose. At the time, his publicist said that the emergency landing was due to complications with the flu.[1] In hindsight, it’s clear that this was fabricated to hide the fact that Prince was struggling with an opioid addiction.

Prince’s body had become worn down after decades of high-energy performances that regularly featured splits and jumps from high areas. The musician began taking prescription opioids after jumping off of speakers in high heels and sustaining a hip injury. He reportedly had a hip surgery at some point during the mid-2000s, but it did not fully alleviate his pain.[2] He also reportedly lived a clean life, free of illicit drugs and alcohol abuse.[3] After his death, some of his friends and family members admitted that Prince had been battling an opioid addiction.[4]

As far as how he got his hands on fentanyl, an investigation is still underway. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is reportedly 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. It is typically used to treat patients with severe pain or to manage post-surgery pain. It is also used in individuals with chronic pain who have developed tolerances to other opioids.[5]

The Shame and Stigma of Addiction

No one wants to see their reputation destroyed and their name dragged through the mud.If we lived in a nation where people could admit they have an addiction problem without fear of judgment, mockery and ridicule, perhaps we wouldn’t have lost Prince, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and others. But the public’s quick tendency to attack, coupled with these stars’ desires to continue their careers without being scorned leads them to not seek help.

It sounds shortsighted and foolish looking back because nothing is more important than a person’s health. But no one wants to see their reputation destroyed and their name dragged through the mud. Because of this, many musicians, actors and actresses silently fall deeper and deeper into substance abuse and addiction.

Beverly Hills opioid addiction specialist, Clare Waismann, summed up the issue in a USA Today article:[6]

“I believe one of the main causes of all these overdoses is the word ‘addiction’ carries negative connotations and associations … as if addiction was a living, breathing entity caused by lack of morals, lack of strength or a flawed character. This stigma that society has created keeps the ones that need help alone, hopeless and ashamed.”

Addiction and Recovery Obstacles for the Rich and Famous

Every person struggling with any type of addiction has his or her own challenges to overcome on the path to recovery. Some of these hurdles can include mental health difficulties, family problems and physical health. Celebrities not only face all of the potential problems people in the general public encounter, but they also face unique obstacles based on their fame.

The primary challenge is that no one ever wants to say no to a superstar, including friends, family members and medical professionals. Everyone is star struck. Friends, family members and doctors often want to remain in the celebrity’s close circle to enjoy the perks, so they will do anything the celebrity wants, allowing disaster to strike.

A nearly endless supply of money is also an issue. Hitting “rock-bottom” is frequently what prompts a person to seek help for his or her addictions. For John Q. Public, hitting “rock-bottom” is usually related to finances – whether it’s a loss of a job, an inability to pay bills, depleting bank accounts or stealing. For many celebrities for whom money is not a concern, “rock-bottom” more often comes in the form of a health-related emergency. For those who are lucky, that emergency does not lead to an overdose death.

For many celebrities for whom money is not a concern, “rock-bottom” more often comes in the form of a health-related emergencyIt’s also difficult for a celebrity in treatment. Whereas an everyday person wants to remain anonymous in group addiction meetings and counseling sessions, how does a celebrity do this when everyone knows him or her by sight? This lack of anonymity and likely increased attention stops many addicted musicians, athletes, actors and actresses from getting the help they need.

The Value of Individualized Addiction Treatment

One of the most common misconceptions about addiction recovery is that it’s a one-size-fits-all process. Many assume an addiction is an addiction, and each person can be treated in the same manner. While many of the foundational principals of addiction recovery may apply universally, each person has a unique path to health, wellness and sobriety.

Celebrities face many pressures that others in the public would barely understand. A grueling schedule, pressure to perform, lack of privacy and being away from loved ones for days and weeks at a time are just a few of the unique rigors celebrities must face daily. An addiction recovery program that identifies and addresses these unique factors is critical for success.

The addiction recovery specialists at Seaside Palm Beach have created specific programs to help celebrities get the treatment they need in a discrete and luxurious setting. We realize that each addiction requires an individualized strategy, and we have worked with dozens of individuals in the spotlight to help them overcome their addictions. If you or someone you know is an individual in the limelight suffering in silence from addiction, contact us today at 888-997-3274 to get the help you need.