Opioid Crisis Hits Flat Note with Another Celebrity Death Caused by Overdose
Epidemic Costs Country Billions Each Year, Leading Government Entities To Sue Big Pharma
Beloved singer Tom Petty became part of America’s opioid crisis when it was revealed that the 66-year-old’s cause of death in Oct. 2, 2017, was an overdose of painkillers for a broken hip.
An autopsy conducted by the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner found a deadly cocktail of drugs in the rock ’n’ roller’s system: acetyl fentanyl, despropionyl fentanyl, regular fentanyl and oxycodone, all of which are opioids. The autopsy also detected alprazolam and temazepam, a pair of sedatives, and the antidepressant citalopram.
A statement from the Tom Petty family, namely wife Dana Petty and daughter Adria Petty, explains the tragedy – one that is all too common these days because of powerful pharmaceutical companies that deny the fact that opioids are addictive.
“Unfortunately Tom’s body suffered from many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems and most significantly a fractured hip,” the statement reads. “Despite this painful injury he insisted on keeping his commitment to his fans and he toured for 53 dates with a fractured hip and, as he did, it worsened to a more serious injury. On the day he died he was informed his hip had graduated to a full on break and it is our feeling that the pain was simply unbearable and was the cause for his over use of medication.”
It continues: “We knew before the report was shared with us that he was prescribed various pain medications for a multitude of issues including Fentanyl patches and we feel confident that this was, as the coroner found, an unfortunate accident. As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives. Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications.”
Petty joins a long list of celebrities whose voices have been silenced because of, as the statement said, “the potency and deadly nature of these medications.” Guitar great Prince died from an overdose of fentanyl at age 57. Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a mixture of heroin and cocaine, as well as amphetamines and benzodiazepines at age 46. Even before the opioid crisis was identified and turned into a social and political issue, the medications were killing those in the limelight. In 1997, comedian Chris Farley, of Saturday Night Live fame, died from morphine and cocaine use at age 33. Also at age 33, the legendary John Belushi died doing a speedball, which is an injection of heroin and cocaine. That was in 1982. In 1977, Elvis Presley died at age 42 from multiple prescriptions, including codeine. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that nearly 100 U.S. consumers die each day from opioids.
“The misuse of and addiction to opioids – including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl – is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare,” states a page on the institute’s Web site titled “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”
The institute did not hold back in explaining the root cause of the problem, basically blaming it on Big Pharma.
“In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates,” the page reads. “This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive. Opioid overdose rates began to increase.”
In 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available, an estimated 33,000 in the United States lost their lives as a direct result of opioid overdoses. The institute identifies opioids as fentanyl, heroin and prescription painkillers. Also in 2015, an approximate 2 million Americans who didn’t die from opioid overdose developed substance-abuse disorders; another 600,000 became addicted to heroin. One-third of those whose doctors prescribe opioids for pain relief misuse the medicine.
“It is a national tragedy,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Jan. 23, 2018, news conference. “It needs a national solution.”
At the news conference, De Blasio announced he filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of prescription opioids in an attempt to recoup some of the $78.5 billion in costs related to the epidemic.
“The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, alleges that the opioid crisis was caused by the deceptive marketing of drugmakers, and by distributors bringing large amounts of prescription painkillers into the New York market,” according to an article in The New York Times titled “New York City Sues Drug Companies Over Opioid Crisis.” “All of this has caused the city to spend millions of dollars on substance abuse treatment programs, hospital services, emergency medical services and law enforcement.”