The reports Thursday that the rock star Prince died of an overdose of opiates provided one more shocking example of the pervasive problem of addiction to heroin and prescription painkillers. It is killing the rich and the poor, young and old, people who have struggled with addiction all their lives and people who have never taken an illegal substance or had a problem before with legal ones.
Opiate overdoses are killing more people in the United States than car accidents, and three times as many people as drunken-driving accidents. There have been numerous opiate task forces in Albany, but with just a few days left in this year’s state legislative session, there is still no consensus among Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, the Senate and the Assembly over which laws to enact to combat this epidemic.
There is still a lot left to uncover about the death of Prince, who was known for avoiding illegal drugs but who also sustained many painful injuries in his career. He saw a doctor the day before he died, was in touch with an addiction specialist, and had to make an emergency plane landing the previous week, reportedly because of an opiate overdose from which he was revived with Narcan.
But what seems likely in the beloved musician’s death is what seems clear with our system. There is too little urgency and action around a problem that is killing about 75 people in the United States every day.
There are some clear improvements Albany lawmakers can make. They must force insurance companies to pay for more rehabilitation, and require doctors to cut opiate prescriptions to sensible sizes and counsel patients on their dangers.
Notwithstanding resistance from the drug companies, the medical profession and the insurance companies, those laws need to be passed. Now. — The editorial board