The world mourned the recent and tragic loss of musical legend Prince. It is now apparent that his death was avoidable, caused by a drug overdose and mounting evidence that he struggled with a long-term addiction to opiods. Unfortunately, he, like so many who struggle with this disease, was forced to hide in the shadows from a world that struggles to come to terms with proven scientific data that no choice exists once addiction rears its ugly head.
But why should we be surprised or shocked? In the United States alone, addiction takes the lives of more than 100 people a day, and more people die annually from substance-use disorders than they do from car crashes.
Recently, Saturday Night Live and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were criticized for a controversial skit that some said made light of opiod addiction, yet many clearly missed the point. SNL was only highlighting the sad reality that addiction has moved into our living rooms and attempting to quash the myth that the disease is isolated to back alleys, shooting galleries and crack houses.
Prince was a hero to so many of us who grew up on his music. As far as we knew he lived a clean, transparent life and responsibly used his celebrity status to positively affect the world. We can only speculate that the shame and fear of judgment stopped him from being able to reach out and ask for the help he desperately needed. Thankfully there are organizations like facingaddiction.org, working to end the stigma of addiction and advocate for those struggling with the disease.
Just as we came to terms with our understanding of other diseases such as HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis it’s time we change course as a nation and do the same as it relates to substance-use disorders and mental health. Addiction has become a global epidemic and we must alter the way we treat and view people who are literally fighting for their survival.
Fred Menachem, Miami