First came Prince, who died from an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl in his Minnesota home.
Next came singer Chaka Khan. She beat the reaper by entering into rehab this month, along with her sister.
The Grammy winner admitted fentanyl is her escape drug of choice. Chaka wisely gave up her summer concert appearances to focus on getting clean.
“The battle of addiction is a serious and long process, which is why I chose to address my use of prescription medications — which came about as a result of the knee surgery I had a few years ago,” she said.
Fentanyl is one of latest prescription painkillers to grab headlines. It’s used for severe pain, and is approved for longterm treatment. The stuff also is up to 100 times stronger than morphine, and 50 times stronger than heroin.
Fentanyl quickly shoots into the bloodstream. Dopamine then elevates, stoking the brain’s reward areas. The sweet euphoria grows into dependence, then addiction.
States like New Jersey and Mississippi are reporting spikes in fentanyl overdose deaths.
Insurance fraud is the largely untold story. It’s helping finance America’s epidemic of opioid addiction — billions of stolen insurance dollars worth.
Some fentanyl addicts reportedly are scamming health insurers to score prescriptions that feed the need. Same with other painkillers such as hydrocodone, or anti-anxiety meds and muscle relaxants.
Insurance scams may or may not have funded Prince’s or Chaka’s highs. Yet scams still are part of the bigger opioid picture, so we should be very concerned.
Insurers are stepping up investigations, plus education of doctors and patients to head off addiction. Law enforcement is going after shady pain clinics and pharmacies that dole out insurer-paid scripts.
Still, we risk getting exhausted by it all. We’re subject to steady parades of news stories about people dying from insurance-paid overdoses. Plus welcome busts of cold-blooded pain docs. They’re keeping addicts fed with pills — are we getting fed up?
Sadly, it may take a celeb’s drug death or rehab to keep headlines fresh and the public concerned. Let’s stay concerned, whether it’s a Grammy winner or small-town factory worker just trying to get clean.