Cause of Prince's Death Confirmed: Addiction and Recovery News
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Cause of Prince’s Death Confirmed: This Week in Addiction and Recovery News

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Prince Died from ‘Exceedingly High’ Levels of Fentanyl

Toxicology reports revealed Monday that pop singer Prince, who died suddenly on April 21, 2016, had “exceedingly high” amounts of fentanyl in his system at the time. The 57-year-old rocker was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his estate. A confidential report obtained by The Associated Press revealed toxicology results that “leave no doubt” that fentanyl—a synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin—killed the singer. “The amount in his blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches,” said Dr. Lewis Nelson, Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s chairman of ER medicine, calling the fentanyl concentrations “a pretty clear smoking gun.”

Can Marijuana Treat Alcoholism and Cocaine Addiction?

A brand new study conducted by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego suggests that marijuana could play a key role in treating drug and alcohol addictions. According to Esquire, CBD (otherwise known as cannabidiol) can help curb relapses in people struggling with addiction. For the study, researchers hooked rats on alcohol and cocaine and then injected them with CBD to see what effect the substance would have on their anxiety and impulsivity levels. “They found that the rats with CBD in their systems were less likely to relapse into alcohol or drug use over time, even when the scientists tempted them with it,” Esquire reported. “Even when forced to deal with stressful surroundings, the CBD rats were less likely to seek out drugs.” Additionally, after five months, the CBD rats were less likely to relapse on alcohol even after all of the CBD had vanished from their systems.

Cigna Reduced Opioid Use by 25%

Cigna, one of the country’s largest insurers, says that it reduced prescription opioid use among its members by 25%. The 25% reduction was a three-year goal for the firm, set back in 2016. According to Forbes, however, the firm accomplished the task in just two years. “A big part of this chapter, of the intensity of our focus, was to reduce the risk for future onset of addiction by decreasing the number of people and decreasing the availability of these highly addictive opioids,” said Cigna CEO David Cordani. The 25% reduction factored in the number of opioids prescribed by doctors treated by Cigna-covered patients as well as opioid strength. “A more potent drug, like Oxycontin, would represent a higher number of morphine-equivalent doses,” the story noted. Cigna said that the reduction in prescription was largely accomplished through their staff physicians reaching out to doctors to help them understand “how their prescribing behavior compared to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the behavior of other prescribers.”

Are Stem Cells the Future of Alcohol Treatment?

Rats were also center stage in another clinical study around addiction recovery. Digital Trends reported that stem cells, which have been responsible for many major breakthroughs in medical science, have proven effective in combating alcoholism. Researchers at the University of Chile discovered that “one dose of human mesenchymal stem cells injected intravenously into rats significantly reduced the amount of alcohol they would willingly imbibe.” Forty-eight hours after receiving treatment, rats that were drinking “the size-adjusted equivalent of a bottle of vodka per day” reduced their alcohol intake by 90 percent. What’s more is that one single dose went a long way: the effects lasted up to five weeks. “We have proved efficacy and safety using rats [selectively]bred as alcohol consumers,” one of the researchers said. “We believe that in humans presenting an alcohol use disorder, this type of cell therapy may reasonably be used in conjunction with a cognitive-behavioral intervention.”

Study Reveals Doctors Unaware of Opioid Over Prescription

A new study out of the University of Colorado suggests that many emergency department (ED) physicians regularly underestimate how often they prescribe opioids. According to ScienceDaily, 65% of the surveyed physicians had no idea they were overprescribing. “We surveyed 109 emergency medicine providers at four different hospital EDs,” said Sean Michael, the study’s author. “We asked them to report their perceived opioid prescribing rates compared to their peers. Then we showed them where they actually were on that spectrum.” Of the 119,428 patients who were discharged over the course of the yearlong study, EDs wrote 75,203 prescriptions—20% of which were for opioids. After seeing their actual prescription data, however, “everyone showed an overall decrease in prescribing opioids,” Michael said. “The people with inaccurate self-perceptions, on average, had 2.1 fewer opioid prescriptions per 100 patients six months later and 2.2 percent fewer prescriptions per 100 patients at 12 months.” Interestingly, while the downward trend is promising, the story noted that ED doctors write only five to 10 percent of all opioid prescriptions. The problem is, sadly, much larger. “Despite making progress on the opioid epidemic, we can’t assume providers are behaving optimally and have all the information they need to do what we are asking of them,” Michael said. “Most believe they are doing the right thing, but we need to directly address this thinking to be sure they are not part of the problem.”

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About Author

Paul Fuhr is an addiction recovery writer whose work has appeared in The Literary Review, The Live Oak Review, The Sobriety Collective and InRecovery Magazine, among others. He is the author of the alcoholism memoir “Bottleneck.” He's also the creator and co-host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and recovery. Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and their cats, Dr. No and Goldeneye.