Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wish we were memorializing Prince in 2036 instead of 2016

Symbol for the opioid formerly known as Oxycodone.
News of Prince's death rocked music fans. I'm not a big Prince fan, but do admire his creativity. The soundtrack of my life is more Sgt. Pepper's than Purple Rain. I remember well Prince's videos airing on the early days of MTV. Remember music videos on Music TV? Yes, I thought that you would. A new public TV station in Boulder also aired music videos at night. That was Colorado Public Television Channel 12, which now is based in Denver's LoDo. I remember videos by Prince and Pat Benetar and the "Roly Poly Fish Heads" song by Barnes & Barnes and the late great band The Call with its subversive lyrics and sneaky Biblical references. I was thirtysomething then, and music videos were new and quirky. We talked about them at work. Didya see...? Yeah, weird, eh? Yeah. Weird, Weird, and cool. 

The videos have moved to the web. And Prince is gone. The most disturbing aspect of the tragedy are the allegations that he was hooked on opioids for pain. Prince spent his adult life dancing across stages. He jumped from platforms and did the splits, all while wearing his trademark high-heel shoes. When you get to be 57, no matter your physical prowess, gravity takes a toll. Prince had hip replacement surgery and back problems. What does a performer do about chronic pain? Painkillers. And Percocet offers some wonderful painkilling properties. Better living through chemistry, eh? Problem is, that opioid high is addicting and ya wanna keep poppin' those pills.

In the past year, I've undergone two knee replacement surgeries. Both times, my orthopedic doctor prescribed Percocet (Oxycodone + Acetaminophen) for pain. As the weeks passed, the doc weaned me from a higher dose to a smaller one and finally to none at all. A wise man, one who has written many prescriptions for opioids -- and has undoubtedly heard many pleas for more, sir, please, more. Pain sufferers can be a pain -- and very persuasive. No wonder the pills are handed out like candy.

Patient: Doc, I'm in terrible pain.

Doc: You are a terrible pain.

Patient: Trouble right here in Magic City, Doc. I need opioids and it rhymes with hemorrhoids and it stands for pool and...

Doc: Are you high?

Patient: High on life.

Doc: Here's a prescription for a gazillion Percocet.

Patient (kisses Doc's feet, backs slowly out the door):  You won't regret this Doc!

Doc: Yes I will. 

Since I began my personal experience with opioids, I have heard scores of blood-curdling stories about opioid abuse. Fatal overdoses, lost jobs, ruined marriages, etc. Addicts will do anything (and have) to get their hands on Oxy. When they can't, some turn to heroin. Thus the heroin epidemic in the hinterland.

What are our other options when pain haunts us? It would be nice to just say no, but it's not that easy when your body and your brain are working against you. Pain screams for relief. If you are lucky, the pain in only temporary. Knee and hip replacements heal over time and you feel almost as good as new, a return to the days when you only had a bit of knee pain. Aleve can soothe the ache after a Snowy Range hike. Sure, the commercials are annoying but that's a small price to pay for 24-hour pain relief! Caution: Aleve may cause nausea, light-headednesss, heartburn, dizziness, abdominal pain. But still better than Heroin P.M.

Medical marijuana is a hot issue in many states including Wyoming. Marijuana won't kill you. It may lead to harder stuff. But what if you are already taking the harder stuff in the form of opioids? Wouldn't pot be a welcome change from the fever dreams of opioids and the threat of addiction?

We don't yet know Prince's autopsy results.He may have died from a heart attack or an aneurysm. Both can kill quickly, especially if you are alone in an elevator and have no phone to call 911. In those circumstances, you can't always think straight -- or have enough time to dial for help.

Meanwhile, let the tributes roll on. Prince deserves it. I just wish we were giving him a posthumous send-off 20 years in the future.

1 comment:

Christian Counterman said...

I understand you were a friend of Mary Hartman. I corresponded with her from about 2005 to 2010. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me.

Christian Counterman