Prince’s Cause Of Death Shouldn’t Alter His Legacy

Legendary performer Prince has died at the age of 57 at his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota early Thursday morning 07/04/2011 © Photoshot, PacificCoastNews

After much speculation, our beloved Purple One, Prince’s cause of death was revealed to the world.  As suspected by many, Prince ultimately passed away from an overdose on painkillers, Fentanyl specifically. states that Fentanyl is “one of the strongest opiate drugs on the markets.” The article goes on to describe its purpose for “surgery recovery and for breakthrough pain.” So what specifically makes Fentanyl tick or rather, what can cause it to be addictive and ultimately lead to death?

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Fentanyl is “more potent than morphine.” According to,  there are a number of common side effects of the drug, while symptoms of overdosing are described as “extremely shallow of slow breathing.”  The U.S. National Library of Medicine also cites “shallow or difficult breathing” as a reason to call the doctor right away, among other symptoms such as “confusion or hallucinations,” “muscle pain, weakness or tenderness,” or scarier, “slow heartbeat.”  In other words, Fentanyl seems to have good intentions in relieving pain – that’s what painkillers do after all – but it is a drug that can be potentially dangerous.    

So here’s the deal with Prince.  Prince Rogers Nelson is physically gone forever, never to return – well unless you are a believer in reincarnation, etc.  For most folks, however, when you’re gone physically, that’s all she wrote.  Prince isn’t coming back.  While his musical legacy will live on, he is no longer in the “land of the living.” The question is, do we as people allow Prince’s unfortunate demise change our perceptions of him and/or his legacy? 

Hop Farm Festival 2011 - Prince

The answer to the aforementioned question should be a resounding NO. Whether it is or isn’t depends on who you ask.  If we play devil’s advocate, Prince might be examined as a drug addict.  Yes, his drug of choice became opioids, but knowing the power of the drug and its potential adverse effects, Prince’s continual use ultimately caused his death, which is the characterization of an overdose.  Sounds harsh doesn’t it? Why is that?

Here’s why the “devil’s advocate” assertion sounds harsh.  First and foremost, most folks NEVER, EVER acknowledge or associated Prince with drugs, particularly later in his life.  He was a devout Jehovah’s Witness who had “cleaned up his act.”  Additionally, while morally the risqué nature of Prince’s past music, in particular, is questionable (“Head,” “Jack U Off” and “P Control” are just a few that come to mind), musically, Prince is considered nothing short of genius, overshadowing “human” issues you might say.  Prince and “drug addict” just don’t seem to fit. 

BUT, ultimately, it was an accidental overdose of painkillers that killed Prince and he was seeking help from an opioid addiction specialist, though it was ultimately too late.  Also, let’s not forget the suspect emergency landing prior to his death.   This considered, Prince’s legacy should remain intact regardless of his cause of death.  The music definitely hasn’t and can’t change because Prince’s genius status is forever locked-in.  Who else could’ve penned gems like “Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Purple Rain” or “Kiss” among others? 

Ultimately, Prince’s unfortunate death merely signifies he’s a victim of a much too common issue.  Prescription medicine has caused many deaths accidently, whether it someone the stature of Prince or a close family member or friend.  Rather than pointing fingers at Prince’s dependency slipping through his hands, we should use this heartbreaking loss to help prevent more senseless loss at the hands of prescription meds, specifically opioids. 

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