This year has been a rough one for many people. I’d wager that it’s been even rougher for the people who are dead, specifically, all of the celebrities who have died this year. There are memes all over the place blaming 2016 for being the year that stole our childhood icons and most loved famous people. But nobody is talking about the common thread amongst so many of these deaths, and that of course, is addiction.
The world mourned collectively when iconic musician Prince died from an accidental overdose back in April. People could not stop talking about Prince and his incredible music, and tributes came pouring out of the woodwork. But of course, no one seized the moment to talk about WHY this amazing human is no longer with us. Not just addiction, but OPIATE addiction. Fentanyl, specifically. Fentanyl is available as a hardcore painkiller, over 61 times the potency of morphine.
It is on the market in several preparations, including lollipops and patches which are often aimed at geriatric patients. The patches are designed for use over the course of 72 hours, but just like its cousin OxyContin, that time release can be easily defeated. By eating it. I ate half a fentanyl patch once during peak using and it knocked me on my ass so hard I couldn’t even comprehend it.
It was one of the highest experiences of my life, and it was actually frightening.
I witnessed a friend who was so high on fentanyl once that he was convinced he dropped a lit cigarette in my car while I was driving him home. I had watched him toss it out the window five minutes prior, but he wouldn’t relent. He made me pull over, and stop the car, so he could get out and search for the missing cigarette butt. He fell down on the side of the road, so fucked up, he couldn’t even pick his body back up to get back in the car. I was so afraid a cop was going to drive by, I got out of the car and actually hit him repeatedly to get him alert enough to put him back in the seat so we could get out of there. It was terrible.
This drug is the most common illicit additive in heroin these days, and it creates a very potent drug that heroin users tend to enjoy. A small amount allows those who cut drugs to elevate the quality of their product for little expense. This has been big in the news recently, but like every other aspect of the opioid epidemic, it has been going on for years.
I tested positive for fentanyl in detox in 2009, seven years ago, without having intentionally taken it. For many of us, it’s just another episode of old news on the front page of the We Know Already Gazette.
Prince is the man they invented the word “superstar” to describe. He was a musical genius, and he had the world in his hands. He lived in beautiful homes, he had every material possession he could desire, he was living his passion and creating his art, and there was no reason for him to be down and out dealing with addiction. Yet here he was. Living the dream, and dying by the disease. Addiction knows no prejudice. It will take you as you are, no matter who you are.
Beloved Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher died suddenly on Tuesday, December 27, of apparent cardiac arrest. It was reported that she had suffered a relapse recently under the weight of her tour. Carrie had talked more openly than anyone about her addiction and mental illness, and that is what made her so valuable to me as someone to look up to and admire. She was open that she may never have truly overcome her demons, and that she continued to fight them until her untimely death.
Carrie was outspoken and she just didn’t care what anyone thought of her and the things she said. She recently gave an interview about her affair with Harrison Ford a million years ago during the filming of Star Wars. It was a secret she could have and almost did take to her grave, but she decided to share it like the shared so much of herself. She didn’t believe in shame, it seemed, and she wanted to live openly and honestly instead of hiding behind the façade of success and greatness. She could’ve died as a pristine icon, Princess Leia, emulated in fandom for eternity. She could’ve died crystal clean if she had never chosen to bare her real self to the world. But instead she died as one of us, a real person, who was an addict. Overdoses aren’t the only way we die. Drugs, especially cocaine, cause significant damage to the heart. Regardless of her more recent use, its likely it only added to the strain of the years of addiction that preceded it.
George Michael also died due to heart related issues, likely caused by his years of drug use. Recent reports allege that he had been secretly battling a heroin addiction. Rick Parfitt suffered multiple heart attacks before his heart finally gave out. David Gest had reportedly been abusing sleeping pills and a variety of other prescription drugs, likely opiates as well, which we know are the world’s favorite prescription.
The year 2016 didn’t kill these people. DRUGS killed these people. Famous people, living the lives that many average people dream about, still victims of this deadly disease. Still unhappy, still struggling to live each day with the person who looks back at them through the mirror. Still lost to a disease with no cure and not enough treatment, that you can put into remission and still die from thirty years later.
It is always there, waiting for us. Lurking in the background, hoping that one little slip will lead to a relapse and that we’ll be back again, doing its bidding and living under its thumb. Even when we keep it at bay, fighting everyday against it, you just never know.
When addiction is done with you, you’re done with life. Can’t live with it, can’t die without it.
©Copyright 2016 In Angel’s A